Has the idea of professional networking ever daunted you? Or are you a big fan of networking?
No matter what the case is, we all know that professional networking is an ongoing process throughout one’s career. Establishing and maintaining a strong professional network increases social capital, which can lead to new opportunities and new connections.
Your perception on networking is very closely related to your personality type (1). Extroverts tend to be more comfortable in a networking event setting than introverts. However, since networking is an essential part of advocating for one’s self at the work place and building support systems, introverts as well as extroverts need to master it.
Even though I am an extrovert, I had a hard time networking with employers who came to campuses for recruitment and receptions. I wasn’t really sure what I was supposed to ask them and I felt pressured to present myself in the best way that I could. After talking to a lot of advisors and attending conferences, I came up with the following principles that helped me utilize networking as a professional tool and an enjoyable activity:
- Be yourself. Even though it seems like a simple rule, sometimes we think that success only comes by being like the people that we see around us. You might have different experiences and views than the people you are networking with, but you can still meet amazing people and make solid connections.
- Don’t forget that it’s a two-way relationship. When you are networking with people, don’t just ask for something; instead offer a favor in return. Even though you might feel like you don’t have anything to offer to the person who is talking to you (e.g. when you are talking to potential employers), there is always something that you can do and asking never hurts.
- Follow-up. This is the most important step because meeting someone at a networking event and never getting in touch is as good as never meeting the person. Try to remember the details of your conversation and send the person a “Thank you” note or an email with small mentions from your conversation.
Professional networking is a great way to learn about career opportunities, explore career paths, meet people you aspire to work with, and build a support system. All of these will enhance your early experiences in college with the professional world and help you navigate within a firm, an industry or even when changing industries.
So, go out there, and master networking!