In this fast-paced world of digital job searches, one-click applications, and increasing competition for coveted positions, entering the workforce for the first time can seem intimidating. How can I get a good job? What if I don’t stand out enough? Is there any way to make a better first impression? 

One of the best ways to stand out from a crowd and learn about new and exciting opportunities is through the power of people. Networking is a process of developing connections in your industry, your desired industry, or a related one to learn, find new chances for movement, and gain professional development. 

For many, the word “networking” conjures images of facing large rooms of strangers and trying to memorize names poorly scrawled onto name tags. Modern networking does not have to be that complicated, and the benefits outweigh the anxiety.

Many people develop meaningful connections through networking that lead to cooperation between organizations and new job opportunities. Sometimes even friendships can be formed. In order to see networking as an important tool in your belt, it is essential to do it correctly. 

Here are 8 Tips to Start Networking:

Do your research

To get the most out of a networking opportunity, it needs to be relevant. You can gain some unique opportunities by stepping outside your traditional lane. Attending field-relevant events will usually serve your purposes better. Go to events where you’ll meet people in your field or who are familiar with it.

There are lots of virtual opportunities

While the popularity of virtual networking events was growing before the COVID-19 virus, now, they’re some of the best to attend. Distance is less important, and thanks to the improvements in technology, breakout rooms make it easier to meet more people. They can be found on sites like Eventbrite or through your current network. 

Ask others

Ask your friends, classmates, and co-workers what they do: Find out where other people are having success. Use your current network, even if it is just friends, families, and school associates, to meet new people and find new chances to learn. 

Learning opportunities are also networking opportunities

Sometimes, you will get opportunities to earn certificates in your field or extra training. If it is in an in-person or online course, this is a chance to learn from top people in their fields and get their contact information and add them to your network. 

Listen, but don’t be a wallflower

When you’re at a networking event, it is important to learn to strike a balance between being a chatterbox, and standing out for all the wrong reasons, and staying silent and being forgettable. Ask questions. Don’t interrupt. Share relevant and interesting information and stories. Make a strong impression by being polite, positive, and purposeful with your conversation.

Don’t be afraid to follow up with people

The purpose of networking is to follow up with individuals later to talk business. That could be meeting someone to review your resume (don’t forget to look at our tips about resumes), follow up about a job posting at an organization you want, or make a connection to benefit a project for your company. Take the initiative. If someone gave you their contact information, they probably want to hear from you.

Ask about other networking events 

People who network regularly love to talk about their best and worst experiences. If you meet someone who knows a lot about your field, or if you’re looking for a job, don’t be afraid to ask about other events. “Do you have any other events to suggest?” “What is your favorite networking opportunity?” 

Use your online resources

Networking does not have to be confined to events. LinkedIn usage has increased drastically as business has moved online. Take a good headshot, and put your resume on LinkedIn, and get to know people. Use current work and school connections to meet new people. Because job postings are increasing there as well, you can find out if you have a connection to a job in which you are interested. Take advantage of your online skills and use the internet as a powerful networking tool.

Networking is a skill that is refined with practice. The more regularly you go, the easier it becomes. Use the popularity of online events to start in a comfortable environment or throw yourself into a big event. Either way, be professional and come ready to speak and to listen. The best way to get good at networking is to get started and see what new opportunities come your way.

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