6 practical networking tips for young professionals
About to attend a networking event? Stop what you’re doing and start scrolling — you’re going to want these six practical networking tips for young professionals looking to build career skills.
Start by doing reconnaissance on who’s going to attend an event
The first tip sounds simple, but it’s also the most important: before you ever show up to an event, start by figuring out who’s going to be at that event. Read about the speakers, attendees, agenda, sponsors and critical players to start getting a sense of all the people you may potentially meet.
You can also tap into other parts of the internet to learn more. For instance, follow some of the attendees on social media when appropriate, and check out their posts, reels and bios. If there are pre-event podcasts, that’s a great place to start — try listening to the people who you’re going to meet to learn more about their views and idiosyncrasies.
Make contact pre-event where appropriate
Got someone’s LinkedIn? Awesome. Now it’s time to reach out to them. It might seem a little nerve wracking to contact someone you haven’t met face to face yet, but consider it a “soft launch” for the moment that you do meet.
When you do this, try connecting by introducing yourself and letting them know that you’re interested in connecting with them at an upcoming event. You could say, “Hey! I’m really interested in the speech you gave on your podcast. Would it be alright to meet for a few minutes after your speaking engagement to talk more?”
Of course, everyone you meet will be different, so try tailoring your message to their unique situation. Remember that genuine kindness and curiosity will get you far — and playing nice just to climb the corporate ladder will not.
Get curious and don’t be afraid to ask questions
Sometimes, the power dynamics at a networking event are lopsided. You might be a grad student or a young professional with very little industry experience, whereas the person you want to talk to could be a PhD-wielding professor with decades of industry and academic know-how.
How do you start a conversation like that when the experience gap is so wide? Here’s a secret: you don’t need to prove that you’re “impressive” or their “equal” to garner their attention. In fact, it might even be better if you’re not out to prove how intellectual or accredited you are… after all, nobody wants to sit down with a know-it-all who’s got a chip on their shoulder.
The best bet is to be enthusiastic. Why? Because real, heartfelt interest trumps experience and accolades every single time. An industry expert will be delighted to share what they know with you if you show up with a great attitude and a desire to learn.
Now, please note that you should still try to go into a conversation like that prepared — don’t do zero research before talking shop with someone! It’s just important to remember that energy and enthusiasm are needed, too.
Identify an event “goal”
Let’s say you can’t scout people beforehand. If you’re going into an event blind, which happens often, it’s better to think about what a “win” would look like coming out of that experience. Would meeting a stranger and striking up a conversation be a success? Or would success look like scheduling a follow-up coffee date with another industry professional?
By thinking about your goals before attending a network event, you’ll be better prepared to execute on them when you arrive.
Make long-term friendships, not one-off connections
Networking, like anything else, takes time. Chances are pretty good that you’re not going to gain a new client or learn some gold-standard industry secret at your first dinner social or conference.
However, your chances of getting a lot out of these events go up dramatically if you focus more on making long-term friendships than one-off connections. If you meet people at events that you enjoy being around, treat them like friends! Get their numbers, ask them to dinner, go on walks around the expo center… do what you’d do with anyone you enjoy spending time with.
Why? Because that long-term friendship could pay off down the road. Maybe the person you’re befriending doesn’t need your services now, but that doesn’t mean they won’t help you out later. You never know what a connection is going to turn into — so don’t disregard the people who can’t do anything for you in the moment.
Journal with a coach
Every good networker needs a networking buddy. That’s why we recommend working with a coach or journaling partner to talk networking tips, strategies and tactics. If you haven’t already gotten onboard with a coaching service, now’s the time — you’d be surprised at how quickly you can eliminate blind spots and supercharge your career with the help of a certified coach!
Got that imposter syndrome? We got you covered here.