For most millenials, we are in the first 1-8 years of our career. The job market is rapidly changing and the ways that we train, find, and keep jobs are forever evolving. I will be the first to admit that it can easily become overwhelming and feel like a mountain that you have to climb while blindfolded. However, this is your life and your career, and you do have control over where it goes. I work in a large, public university- there is a lot of opportunity, but people can get lost in the shuffle pretty easily. Professional networking is an important step in managing your career and it is a manageable skill when you break it down! This post is a how to guide on how to approach networking, and help you get started…
1. Pay Attention to Whom You Are Meeting
When you meet new professional connections, it is very easy to just take business card after business card and “rack up” as many connections as possible. However, spending 30 seconds with 20 different people isn’t going to do you much good- you won’t remember them and they won’t remember you. Spend five minutes with two people, and actually learn a little bit about what they do and how it might intersect with what you do. When you do meet them again, or call or email them, it will give you something to actually open with and cement that connection.
2. Take Advantage of Professional Development Opportunities
Professional development is a two fold benefit for you. The first and obvious benefit, learning a new skill. Some companies will offer internal professional development courses and events, while others will send you to external events and conferences. I struggle with taking the time for PD because it means time away from my job and more to come back to. However, it’s an intensive and fast way to pick up a new skill or learn about a new project/system. The second benefit? You will meet and spend time with people that you may not otherwise have a chance to. These connections may be able to help when something comes up in your current role and you need to troubleshoot; they also may be able to help when you are looking for and applying for a different position.
3. Learn One New Skill A Month
You may have to cover for part of another position while someone is sick or away on vacation, roles may change and you have new duties, or you may simply want to branch and learn something new. In any case, continually keep refreshing your skills! Spend a few hours with Code Academy learning HTML, try and understand one of your internal systems, help a co-worker who has related job duties. The more people that know you and your skill set, the more people there are to think of you when opportunities arise. It also will help keep your mind fresh- doing the exact same thing day in, day out, for years on end won’t challenge you! It’s now on you to challenge yourself, and it will help in the long run.
4. Prepare a Fast and Useful Explanation of Your Job
Yes, we all have weirdly long job descriptions that we become attached to as proof of all the things that we spend how many hours a day on. However, spewing that at someone when you have 2-5 minutes to talk to them isn’t going to get you anywhere. You need a short and concise explanation of what you generally do and what your main functions are. Have it ready in your mind- once you “write it”, it shouldn’t be that difficult to remember as it is your job. Make sure that when you are explaining your roles you avoid any shorthand and acronyms, ensure that someone who has no knowledge of your role/company/industry could understand what you do in a nutshell!
How do you find ways to network professionally?