Going from college life to a full-time career can feel like a drastic change for many young professionals. In college, you may have gotten used to meeting lots of different people in your classes, participating in various clubs and organizations, and having regular campus events to attend.
But when you’re just starting out in your career, you may not know very many people in your field (if any), and if you’ve relocated to a new area, you may not know many people at all.
Networking is a great way to meet new people and build your personal brand. The more you expand your network and build connections, the more doors will open for you in your career.
Read on for 5 tips for putting yourself out there as a networking young business professional.
1. Practice your elevator speech
Ever been in an interview and gotten the old “Tell me about yourself” line? While it seems like a simple enough request, this question can throw even seasoned professionals for a loop. This is where a good elevator pitch comes in.
A good salesperson will have a rehearsed elevator pitch where they talk about their company or explain what they sell in about the amount of time it takes to ride an elevator. A personal elevator pitch is like that, but with you as the “product” featured. It’s essentially a quick summary of your professional aptitude, strengths, and skills.
Here’s an example:
“Hi, I’m Emily Dickenson. I’m a poet and graduate of Amherst Academy. Even as a young female writer, I’ve had my poems published in the Springfield Republican newspaper. I’m inspired by nature and I write every day in hopes of becoming one of the great poets of my generation.”
2. Do informational interviews
If you want to learn more about a specific job or career, consider asking someone with experience in that field for an informational interview. Unlike a job interview — where you’re being asked the questions — you get to be the one doing the asking in an informational interview.
Think of it as more of an informal conversation or “coffee chat,” where you can ask a business professional what it’s like in a certain position or field. You can learn more about how a person like yourself might be successful in that career.
These meetings can last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. (Just remember to be respectful of the person’s time, as they’re doing you a favor by taking your meeting.)
3. Go to career fairs
A career fair is a great place to get in front of employers and network with other professionals like yourself. They allow you to make a positive first impression with recruiters and learn about different companies in your field.
To make a great impression at a career fair, Washington State University recommends asking prospective employers about:
- Particular open roles within the company
- What the hiring process looks like
- About the person’s own experience at the company
- About growth and development opportunities at the company
- About the company’s products, services, or recent news
- About the company culture
- How you can stay in touch
Even if you don’t come away with a new job, hopefully, you’ll leave the career fair having made new connections and expanded your professional network.
4. Join (other) professional organizations
If you’re an AKPsi student or alumni, you already have a built-in network of principled business leaders to connect with. Be sure to leverage your brothers and stay connected throughout your career.
You can also look into other professional organizations or industry networking groups to expand your network. Attend online or in-person events to meet new people with similar jobs or interests. Your new connections may be able to introduce you to others in their network, and so on and so forth. That’s the beauty of networking!
5. Follow through and follow up
When you meet someone new, it’s nice to send a follow-up or thank you note. Maybe you connect with them on LinkedIn after meeting at an event or send a quick thank you email.
If you made any promises or commitments during your conversation (e.g., “Oh I know a great web designer, I can send you her information.”) be sure to follow through. Even if they forgot what you discussed, they’ll be pleasantly surprised when you come through with the goods. It shows that you’re a dependable person and someone they’ll want to stay connected with long-term.
Learn more on MyAKPsi
Take a deeper dive into networking in the Passport to Success course, available to all members and alumni in the MyAKPsi Community. Log in for more career and professional development resources to help you thrive in the working world.