It’s graduation time! In honor of the thousands of new graduates – on whom our future is built! – I’m offering this post about networking for those who are just entering the professional workforce.
I hope you stayed vaguely aware during your previous years of education that this time of new beginnings would eventually arrive. You can never start too soon building your network. Hopefully, you’ve been connecting with leaders in your field(s) of interest and creating a solid personal brand all along.
But even if you’ve done nothing to date in terms of practical preparation for your career, there are a lot of things you can do, starting now. Don’t put it off any longer, though. It takes some time to build a network; and it’s a process that really can’t be rushed.
Here are a few action items to get you started.
1) Brush up your LinkedIn profile. Be sure your photo looks professional and your text is error-free. Ask previous employers to write recommendations. Also find some industry-relevant groups to join: read their conversations carefully before joining in. Don’t forget you can search on LinkedIn for industry leaders and use your connections to narrow the gap between you and potential employers or business partners.
2) Create a Facebook Business Page for the business that is You! Post links to articles and news of interest in your field. Encourage colleagues who share your passion to join you there for discussions and other sharing.
3) Follow people in your industry on Twitter, keeping them in a dedicated List, and respond to their posts as appropriate.
4) Research and write articles of 400 to 1,000 words that address key topics in your area of interest. Distribute these at four or five reliable distribution sites like ezinearticles.com and ideamarketers.com. Post regularly (two times a month, minimum) and your name will start appearing in searches for your keywords.
5) Better than writing articles, though best in tandem with it, is blogging. You can create a blog for free at WordPress.com or Blogger.com, and start establishing your expertise today. Define your topic(s) clearly, post frequently and consistently, and be attentive to commenters, and your community will begin to grow.
There’s plenty of networking to do in person, as well.
6) Talk to professionals in your community. Are there a few who might mentor you, or at least share an hour of advice? You’d be surprised how enthusiastic leaders can be about counseling newbies. It’s certainly worth contacting them and asking. When you do meet, be sure you are listening much more than talking.
7) Who you hang out with is also a key factor. Pay attention, and befriend those who share your interests, who will be supportive and honorable. Your closest associations are the foundation of your network.
.8) Go to conferences that relate to your industry. Bring with you business cards that feature your Facebook Business Page, and/or your blog. Think of yourself as a sleuth, gathering all the information you can lay your hands on about the field, its personalities, plans, and politics. Engage fellow attendees in thoughtful chats about key issues. Make friends.
9) If your networking is going well but you still haven’t found the right job, consider volunteering. Identify an organization that would give you good practice and connect you with influential people, and enquire about volunteer opportunities. If you’re a salesperson, for instance, if you help a nonprofit by using your skills, this experience can be the catalyst that finally brings you paying work. If you’re a scientist, can the local schools use your expertise in special workshops? What a great way to build your brand and come into contact with influencers in your community.
I hope these tips pay off handsomely for new graduates. If you want more help, please download my free Smart Networking Toolkit.
photo credit: Dave Herholz
© 2012, Liz Lynch International LLCWANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: “Liz Lynch, author of Smart Networking: Attract a Following In Person and Online, shows accomplished business professionals how to connect to the right people and attract the opportunities they deserve. To become a more visible leader in your organization or industry, visit www.LizLynchOnline.com.”