When you are just starting out in a new field, in a new city, or on your job search fresh out of college, the thought of having to begin building up a professional network from nothing can seem pretty intimidating. By following a few simple guidelines however, you will find the task easier (and maybe even more enjoyable) than what you had previously expected it to be.
Join an alumni club.
An easy way to meet people in your local area (and even beyond) is by joining the alumni club of the college or university that you attended. Many alumni clubs host frequent events that you can attend, and because everyone in the club has their alma mater in common, striking up conversations with the people you meet can be done without too much thought or nerves.
Contact your school’s alumni association to learn more about your local club and how to get in contact with it. Reach out to its director and start getting to know your fellow alumni! And, if your area does not already have an alumni club for your school, you have the perfect opportunity to start your own club — a fun social activity and resume builder all in one!
Think like you are on the job hunt (whether you are or not).
If you are already in a position that you don’t necessarily plan on leaving anytime soon, it can be hard to see the need or be motivated to network. Take on the task of networking with the mindset you would have as a current job seeker. Work to get to know people who work in a range of companies and who can help you develop the skillset that you possess.
Know the latest happenings in your field.
Stay up-to-date with the intricacies and inner workings of your career field. You should always be well-informed as a professional in the working world. Make an effort to always be reading up on relevant news and searching relevant topics on social media networks. By knowing all the latest technologies, news tidbits, or industry leaders, you can more easily converse with those with whom you’re trying to network and present yourself as credible and knowledgeable of the field.
Find a mentor.
Never underestimate the power of a great mentor. Developing a relationship with a seasoned veteran in your field who is a few steps ahead of you in the game and has had his or her share of experiences can give you the guidance you need to succeed. Plus, your mentor is likely to have already established connections with others in the industry over the years and be able to help you add those connections to your own network.
Think more “connection making” and less “elevator pitch.”
You’ve heard the term before. People tell you that in order to really sell yourself, you must have thought out an “elevator pitch” to deliver to people with whom you have brief encouhnters. After all, you only get one chance to make a first impression, so better make it good, right? The truth is, no one wants to feel trapped in listening to a person they’ve just met as they give their rehearsed spiel of their talents and achievements.
Rather than giving the exact same speech to each person you meet, focus more on establishing a real connection with the person. You will come across as more authentic and easier to connect with, and when a person connects with you, they will be more likely to remember you in the future. You can and should of course speak to people you are trying to network with about your skills and background, just don’t let it become a one-way conversation of you doing so.
Create a personal website.
A sure way to develop your personal brand and set yourself apart is by creating a website for yourself. On top of that, you can use it as a tool to help grow your professional network. Choose and register a domain name that includes your name, a domain name suggestion tool can help you find one quickly. That way, when people see it and share it, it is providing another point of interaction with your name and prompting them to better remember it. Then, get to work filling your site with content!
Showcase your best work samples and use your site as a dynamic resume. With the standard paper resume, your most recent accomplishments quickly transition to not-so-recent. With a personal website as your resume, you can add to it or edit it as often as needed, and do so almost instantly. It is easy to share and will get you the online exposure helpful in building your network that you would not be able to get otherwise.
A professional network is an invaluable resource to have at your disposal, whether you are job hunting, learning more about your respective field, or simply trying to meet new people. Build yours from nothing to something great and see how it positively affects you and your career.
Sarah Saker is a business coach and freelance writer that specializes in helping SMBs setup processes for customer support and predictable growth. When not writing or coaching, Sarah can be found on her (small but growing!) family farm. Connect with Sarah on about.me/ssaker for coaching or writing help.