How to Network Effectively During and After College
October 23, 2018
By: Jason Eisenberg Community Program Manager for Office Depot
The mindset as you attend college – or enter young adulthood – is to prepare for the real world. Unfortunately, preparing for the real world is a daunting task that no one can master completely because the world is big, sometimes scary and occasionally unpredictable. That’s why forging and fostering both business and personal relationships can be so crucial to your personal and professional success. A study by LinkedIn reveals that while results may vary based on the type of candidate (employed, unemployed, passive, ‘tiptoer’), networking was the primary means of landing a job.
On the flipside, if you’re looking to hire for your business, having a reliable network can make finding the right fit for your company all the easier.
If You Build It, They Will Come
You must begin building your network before you even realize you need one. Many young adults are hesitant to put themselves out there because people often consider youth a weakness due to lack of experience. But really, that youthful drive to learn and meet everyone can be a major asset – and some of the older, more experienced business owners and experts may take notice. You’d be surprised how many business owners want to take a young professional under their wing. After all, it grows their network and can potentially pay dividends in the future.
So, first thing’s first… just get out there. Go to networking events – which you can likely find through your school, on social media and Meetups – consider bringing your business cards and make an impression. It’s helpful to remember that it’s not easy for everyone to be social and network – humans (like myself) can be awkward! A great tip from 5 Networking Secrets Every Young Person Should Know is to be the icebreaker, providing relief to others so they don’t have to start the conversation. This can give you social value.
Instead of rattling on about how amazing you’re doing, let your new friend talk about their favorite subject – themselves. This is where you listen and key in on problems and pain points you think you can help them with.
Why Am I Helping Them When I Need a Network to Help Me?
You can volunteer your time and knowledge where you know you’ll get the right exposure for your work. The more (and more effectively) you can teach, the more people will want to connect with you. You can do this at local events and meetups, as well as on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook. Office Depot has Small Business Groups on both platforms to help build community and to find helpful content to distribute.
Networking can be more than just scratching each other’s backs. It can forge a partnership that may yield great things for both parties. As public speaker and writer, Deepak Chopra, once said:
“Giving connects two people, the giver and the receiver, and this connection gives birth to a new sense of belonging.”
Elevator Speech – try to be specific in what you know and what you want
You can help yourself by helping others
Be the ice breaker!
A relationship isn’t built in a day. It takes incremental steps to build that kind of trust, but it can pan out in the long run and you’ll continue to gain confidence and networking numbers.
Follow up – remember the few people who you really connected with. Consider following up with them, thank them for their time and see how they’re doing once in a while. You never know what your connections might need on a day-to-day basis, so be a go-to resource until they realize they need you.
In the Digital Age, Being Face-to-Face is Louder
Yes, all this technology enables us to email, instant message, text, call, and video chat so we can use our time more efficiently. But think about your closest friends and family. Were those amazing bonds forged digitally or through human experiences? Being face-to-face is more time consuming, yes, but it’s also more personal. You’re not trying to sell a product with this person. You’re there to learn about the industry (yours, theirs or both) and to potentially create opportunities for one another.
Consider getting to know your connections to further enrich your network – try to learn about their hopes, their fears, their strengths and weaknesses, their motivation, etc. You can’t get all of that through email or chat.
Networking can help you in the long run, whether you’re looking for a great job, looking to hire, or are simply trying to find your place in life. If you’re prepared to network early, you’ll be building a support system that can help you in so many ways!
About the Author Jason Eisenberg is the Community Program Manager for Office Depot, specializing in small business and entrepreneurship. Based out of one of the most exciting cities for startups – Austin, TX – Jason is plugged into the business community, often connecting with thought leaders, entrepreneurs and strategists to help identify and find solutions to common pain points all business owners share.
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All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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