They teach you a lot in college — major-specific facts, how to manage your time, and how to live (relatively) independently — but one thing that’s only touched on in class also happens to be the single most important thing you need to know if you want to get a job.
That’s right, I’m talking about networking.
Networking is defined as ‘a socioeconomic business activity by which businesspeople and entrepreneurs meet to form business relationships and to recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities, share information and seek potential partners for ventures.’ In other words, it’s the business way of making friends who will help you grow within in your profession.
But it sounds easy enough .. right? I mean, after all it’s just like meeting new friends. (Wondering if there is a secret after-college sorority you can join to automatically replenish your less-than-full social life? Same.)
The fact of the matter is that networking requires a specific balance of personality and professionalism while also having an ‘in’ with someone you admire in the workforce. It’s more than just attending networking events.
Safe to say, this was a skill that was never taught to me inside the walls of a college classroom.
Luckily, I’ve had some help in figuring it out post-grad, and I’m here to share what I’ve learned! Read on for my 4 best networking tips that you need to start applying to your life ASAP:
1. It Goes Down in the DM’s
Okay ladies, I know you have all experienced that one weirdo guy on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter who is constantly sliding much too hard into your direct messages. Most of the time their cheesy pickup lines or try-hard flattery just doesn’t work … but sometimes DMing can work. Specifically, it can work for your career.
DMing, in fact, can be great for your career prospects. That is, when you do it right (i.e. it’s truly genuine, complimentary, and non-creepy).
I’ve found that direct messages are a great tool to introduce yourself online to people you really do admire whom you would never meet otherwise.
So, don’t be afraid to reach out to that one Refinery 29 writer you like on Instagram on Twitter or even Linkedin! Tell her how much you admire her work and that you’d love to learn more about how she got where she is in life. Just like your try-hard insta boy, it may not always work, but maybe just once it will .. and doesn’t that hope make it worth the try?
2. Comments = Currency
As one of my favorite online personalities says, ‘Comments equal Currency.’
And sure, this advice is mostly meant to describe cultivating an engaged social following. But I suggest we look at it in the other direction, too — being more engaged can help you out.
I’ve found that a short, positive comment can go a long way in your networking efforts.
I mean, we all always remember that one loyal follower who is always commenting on your stuff .. right? It’s the same with networking in our weird social media-centric society.
Comment on articles, photos, and videos you like. Share why you like them. People always remember those who do, which could make an eventual introduction all the more fruitful for growing your professional circle.
3. Utilize the People Around You
It’s your mom’s childhood friend’s friend from college’s basketball teammate that will help you out the most … trust me.
The greatest route to networking is utilizing what you already have — the people around you! Put feelers out to all of them because you never know when a distant connection could lead to an informational interview with someone working in your field.
4. Continue to Grow your Professional Circle
The most integral part of networking is something that happens after the initial ‘network’ takes place — the continuation of the relationship.
More often than not, mom’s childhood friend’s friend from college’s basketball teammate met with you because they want to help you, and they probably have others in their circle who could help you as well. Don’t be afraid to ask them if they know of anyone else you should meet with, and when you meet with those people, ask them the same question.
Eventually one will lead you to the other and — if you’re lucky — to a job you actually like!
I want to hear from you in the comments below! What are your best networking tips?
Have you mastered the art of networking? What have you found difficult? What have you excelled in? What tips would you give to networking newbies?