7 Tips for Networking in Your 20s
In a world where it seems like every entry-level job requires 3-5 years of experience, trying to make your way up the ladder (or even getting your foot on the first bar) can feel utterly hopeless.
You know the old adage: it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know. Unfortunately, being well-connected is the quickest and easiest way to fast-track a job offer, but unless you completed a ton of high-powered internships or joined a million organizations in
college, it might be hard to find that network when everyone you know is in the same boat.
Whether you’re just getting started or ready to move on to a new challenge, having a strong professional network in place can do wonders to landing a new job. But if the idea of elevator pitches, nametags and forced laughter makes you cringe, fear not! This isn’t your mama’s networking event.
Try these 7 quick tips for networking like a CEO (even if you’re still getting everyone’s coffee) and you’ll be on your way to a promising career in no time!
Find a mentor.
One of the most useful resources when you’re searching for a new position is someone older and wiser who can offer advice and help connect you to people looking to hire. Finding a mentor in your field is one of the best things you can do for your career.
This can be a former or current boss, a professor, a family friend… you name it! Your mentor can help you hone your skills, update your resume, give a professional reference, or introduce you to other people in your industry.
So how do you do this? Start by being a standout intern in college, going to your professor’s office hours, or just asking them to grab coffee and pick their brain.
Join a professional society.
Almost every career path has an accompanying professional society – think Public Relations Society of America, American Medical Women’s Association, etc. These societies often put on networking events, conferences and other events that are rife with networking opportunities within your industry. In addition, they usually include online communities, job boards, and other members-only info that will help with your job search.
A quick Google search for “your industry + professional societies” will yield tons of results, so go forth and network.
Still in college? Most of these societies also have a college chapter on most major campuses, so ask around and find out how you can get involved pre-graduation.
While it may not be the most fun social media network to browse, LinkedIn is an unrivaled tool for connecting with other professionals and finding job opportunities in your field.
If you don’t already have a profile, or if you haven’t updated it since 2009, spend some time making sure your profile is complete with the most up to date information, a nice professional headshot, and plenty of relevant experience.
Then, go to town connecting with people from your current or previous jobs, college courses, high school, even your relatives – you never know who might hold the key to your next job! This provides a great tool for easily keeping up with your contacts and finding new connections to network with.
Hone your skills.
While you’re looking for a new position, don’t be afraid to freelance, volunteer or offer your services pro-bono. It may seem counter-intuitive to give your services out for free when you’re looking for a job, but this can be a great way to meet new people in your industry. Plus, you never know when a volunteer position could turn into a paying job offer.
Keep in touch.
Once you connect with someone at an event or at work, it can be easy to send them a LinkedIn invite then never speak to them again. But that won’t do you any good when it comes time to find a new job. They’re not likely to want to help you if you’ve been ignoring them for 4 years only to conveniently remember you know them now that they work where you want to.
Be sure to keep in touch and stay engaged with the connections you make. A professor once told me that the easiest way to do this is by sending them links or tagging them in posts that pertain to their job or industry – a low-impact way to say you’re thinking about them while still keeping that connection alive.
Find your alumni network.
Alumni networks can be an incredible resource when you’re looking for a job. It provides an instant connection point for someone you’ve never met, and often recruiters or hiring managers will be more inclined to choose candidates from their alma mater.
Plus, many schools or programs have LinkedIn or Facebook groups where you can interact with alumni and share tips, connections and job listings. Spend a little time searching LinkedIn for your fellow alumni and make some connections, you never know who you might meet!
It can be easy to get carried away with thoughts of elevator pitches and business card swaps and wanting to come off perfectly at all times, especially if you’re meeting people at an in-person event. But above all, act like a human being. Find genuine connections and commonalities with people and they’ll be more likely to remember you and want to forge a professional relationship.