Networking: the basics

Whether you are graduating and searching for a job or just starting college, it is important to build your professional network. Oftentimes, though, the idea of talking to complete strangers can be uncomfortable.

“Networking can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never done it before,” says Ragan.com’s Jessica Levco. If you have apprehension about networking, Levco offers five tips for millennials:

  • “Don’t mingle with other millennials,” Levco says, “branch out of your generational comfort zone and talk to people who’ve been in the biz longer than you have.”
  • Have a drink, but stay in control. Levco reminds millennials that, while it is okay to introduce yourself with a drink in hand, save yourself some embarrassment by postponing heavier drinking for later.
  • Rather than introducing yourself by name and company title, “allow the conversation to develop naturally,” Levco says. She recommends starting off by asking a question like “‘how did you hear about tonight’s event?'”
  • Be prepared to describe what you do for work. Levco recommends sticking to the highlights.
  • After the event, follow up with your new contacts. “Everybody likes to be remembered,” Levco explains.

I found all of Levco’s tips to be valuable, but I think her first tip is the best–and the easiest rule to break. At networking events, it is easy to try to stick with people your age because you feel more comfortable. The thing is, though, you’re more likely to learn from the professionals at the event. These people are also the ones that can be harder to meet outside of the event. To get the most out of the event, make sure to focus on starting conversations with the more experienced participants. Be sure to solidify these relationships by also following tip five and following up with the contacts you make.

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