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Networking as a “Young Professional” January 27, 2013

NetworkingAwkward. That should actually be the title of this post because there is no better way to truly describe the art of networking. During my job hunt, my dad always pushed me to “ask if they want to meet for coffee” and I always replied, “Dad, I don’t LIKE coffee!” Obviously, the coffee wasn’t the point, but I was so deathly afraid of meeting strangers and asking them for help that I thought my dislike of coffee could be my escape.

Like all children, I regretfully write these words: my dad knew what he was talking about. *Shudders*

The thing is, no one else is looking out for you except you. You have to be the one to reach out to others and ask for their help because how else will they know you need it? I’ve been on several meet and greets that were horribly nerve-wrecking, but once there, definitely not awkward. Everyone has done it and everyone is willing to help (including me, so ask away).

I’ve been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, in which he describes people that are good at networking as “connectors.” These connectors are relationship builders and have friends, or rather, acquaintances, in every corner of their life. I’ve also been watching a lot of Downton Abbey recently and would call the entire Crawley family connectors. If they wanted William in the tipping point hospital they simply went through their list of acquaintances to find someone that knew someone that knew someone who can get him in despite the hospital initially telling them no. They’re connectors.

Networking and connecting do not end once you find a job. Connectors are people that network for the fun of it, with no purpose in mind, that’s not to say it doesn’t come in handy in the future. Connectors simply enjoy meeting people and are enlightened by the variety of personalities and stories they encounter. Networking and connecting are not skills that go away when you find your dream job. It’s something that will (or should) follow you through your life.

I am the only person in my company that is in charge of creating our social media plan and have been appointee as the “expert”.  The pressure of that expectation mounds daily with the inconsistency and ever-changing world of social media. It’s hard to keep up and know what the best online strategy is for our company with no other social media focused people to brainstorm with. To overcome this challenge, I realize the need to network and ask questions with others in my field. What a relief it was to find groups like Indy Social Media and Indy Social Talk that I can ask for help and learn from.

I already admitted to being a big chicken when it comes to this sort of thing, so don’t be fooled into thinking signing up for those meetings and walking in to meet a group of strangers was easy. It wasn’t. But it does continue to get easier and I don’t feel like I am on a digital marketing island all alone anymore.

My New Year’s resolution was to step out of my comfort zone and meet people. It’s a big deal for me to practice these networking skills because it is so much easier to go about my day saying hello to people without building relationships, but it’s amazing how much more enriched my life is by learning more about those people I am surrounded by.

I encourage you to give it a try. Set a goal to be a connector and take an interest in everyone. You can even start with me by commenting!


13 Responses to “Networking as a “Young Professional””

  1. Malbranque Says:

    Great article am in kinda the same position am now subscribed

  2. Malbranque Says:

    Will you be posting more as I have went through your posts and enjoyed them a lot and am looking more to your social media adventures

  3. Mandy Ellis Says:

    I very much feel the same way Sarah all the time! Its even worse working for a big company with so many people working virtually. I have been forcing myself to introduce myself to the big wigs event hough I feel like i’m going to pee my pants haha

    • Agreed!!! But once you decide to start and do it for the first time, it gets less scary. I did a networking thing last night…it’s nice to know that everyone is there for the same reason!

  4. It’s true! Networking really seems like something only Dads do or people after they’re established and turned 40… But it’s crucial to getting a job, especially if you’re just starting out. Getting a job really comes down to luck and who you know.

    You never know who you are going to meet! I love hearing people’s stories and learning from their experience.

  5. FELIX Says:

    That first step of setting the goal for yourself to get out there and network is very important. I made it a new years resolution last year, and my advice to get started would be to put yourself in positions where you are forced to talk to strangers. I volunteered at the MO Botanical Gardens as an event guide. You don’t want to make a fool of yourself, so you force yourself to talk and you pick up skills of how to start conversations and carry them on. Once you get used to conversing with strangers, start looking for professional groups in your area. Whether it is the local chamber of commerce or possible in your case the @SocialMediaClub, go to business after hour events, participate in twitter conversations, and meet and greets. I recently made some priceless contacts at an ugly sweater party, which I might even get a job out of. – Great Read!

    • Thanks Felix! I definitely agree. Once you start and do it a few times, it becomes MUCH easier! You offered great ideas for how to get plugged in also. A lot of cities offer opportunities for young professionals to get plugged in because they want to keep us around! Love that you might get a job out of it- you never know who you’ll meet! Thanks for your comments!

  6. Danielle Says:

    Totally understand where you’re coming from. A lot of people think networking is for people looking for jobs, but really, for people in positions like ours it is SO important to have a network of like-minded connections for keeping us sane, bouncing ideas off of, turning to for techical support or best practices advice.

    My best advice (from someone who lived/is living it) is to go to as many events as possible. Tweet while you’re there. Connect with others who are tweeting at the events. Go say hi to them (and then duck out of the convo before it gets awkward. ‘I”ve got to go get a drink/say hi to someone/use the restroom, but wanted to make sure I came over and said hi!’). Apply for leadership in those organizations. Before you know it, the people you meet in these groups will be beyond ‘connections’ and really be friends.

    • Awesome tips. I love the “duck out before it gets awkward” tip because it’s very uncomfortable when you get stuck in a conversation with one person when you are there to meet 10 new faces, especially when the conversation is boring or uninformative!

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