Starting a career as a young professional can be intimidating at times. It’s similar to starting the first day of college. You don’t know anyone, nobody knows you, and you may not have a clear vision of what you want to do with your life (or career). I speak to college students on a regular basis and often remind them that the job search process begins with building a network, not applying for your first job. The more you can build your network and build relationships, the faster you will be able to achieve your goals. To get you started, here are a few tips on some successful strategies for building a professional network either in college or after graduation.
1. Don’t burn your bridges
Maintain professional relationships with even those who you may not enjoy being around. Sometimes it’s not about that person but who that person might know and as we all are aware, getting a job is all about who you know. It may be a cliché but it’s the reality of today’s job market.
When you finish an internship or leave a job, make sure you leave on good terms with the employer. With today’s social media and communication capabilities, news can travel very fast. Your former employers can either help you in the job searching process or they can be the deciding factor on a prospective employer’s decision to hire another candidate.
Focus on your relationships with everyone around you and maintain connections with all of them. You’ll find that you will be pulling out their business card when you least expect it.
2. Keep in touch with those who value your work
In life, you will find that you always need those who can build you up and remind you of all the skills you have to bring to the table, especially when things are not going as well as you’d hoped. I like to call them “fans in my court”.
One of the reasons that I think it is important to have “fans” of your work is because they are the ones that will motivate you to pursue your dreams and aspirations when you may be hesitant to do so. Often times they see things that you don’t see yourself because they look at things from a different perspective. They will notice when your “face lights up” when you talk about a particular topic or goal and will be able to help you along the way, guiding you towards what they see in you. Often times, it’s also what you see in yourself but it just takes another set of eyes to see the big picture and how it all fits together.
3. Take every opportunity to connect with others
I would always hear from others, “Don’t overlook what’s right in front of you”. I think that is one of the most powerful quotes that someone can hear. Every person you meet has the potential to be someone that can make a difference in your life. Notice how I mentioned the word “potential”. I’m not saying that everyone you meet will have a significant impact on your life. That would probably be a false statement. But the most meaningful connections can only be made with those with whom you give a chance to be a part of your life.
Strike up a conversation with a complete stranger, say hello to everyone you see for a day, or just open your heart and mind to all those you encounter. Regardless of the strategy you use, the more opportunities you create to connect yourself with others, the more supporters you will have in your network and the larger your network will be.
4. Connect with those inside and outside your areas of interest
If we were to be honest with ourselves, most of us would agree that we like to stay in our comfort zone and engage in relationships with those who have similar interests and backgrounds as ours. We feel more comfortable talking to them, we listen to what they have to say and often times we act only on their opinions without taking into consideration other viewpoints.
I would invite you to take a new approach: connect with as many people as you can inside AND outside of your area of expertise/interest. You will find that many of the opinions of those outside of your area of interest are the ones that will open your eyes and allow seeing things a little differently in order to make the most educated decision.
Many times, people think they have made an educated decision when they consult with those who are closest with them and understand their interest. However, in many cases it is those who have a different “outside” perspective that provide the most clear-cut unbiased information. These people can be valuable resources as you go through your school and career lives to make important decisions that will move you forward both in your education and career.
5. Find a mentor
If there was one thing I could tell college students and recent graduates to be successful in their careers, it would be to find a mentor. Your mentor should be someone who will ask you the “tough” questions. These are the questions that your friends won’t ask you and the ones that will make you really think about your goals and ambitions. They will be able to provide a fresh, unbiased opinion and will also be another “fan”.
The individual that will be your mentor should be someone that has an objective, unbiased relationship with you and your thoughts on your career. The reason for this is that in order for them to be an effective mentor, emotion has to be taken out of the equation. Emotions cause individuals to make irrational, disillusioned decisions that may not be the best for the other individual. A mentor can be a great resource for you so take advantage of it as early as you can. The earlier you can take advantage of having a mentor, the quicker your success will happen.
For a FREE eBook on how to succeed in college and prepare for your career, or to learn more about Dan, please visit www.collegecoachdan.com