Building Your Career Network
With college graduation less than a month or so away, it’s normal to feel the clock is ticking. Years of study have prepared you, but it can be difficult to know the best place to start when you’re ready to begin your professional career.
Constructing a network of connections is an important element of any career search so before you leave college and university life behind, think about who you want to keep in contact with in the future. This could be professors who served as mentors, classmates who always gave great advice or a well-liked manager from a part-time job. All these individuals are important connections now and in the future. Because these people know you, your skills and your abilities, they can become a trusted reference for a job, a recommendation for a grad school application or a sounding board to decide the next challenge to take on. Once you start making associations you begin to see how many connections you already have. The people you know can now help pave the way to make new introductions within their network of connections. The connectivity spreads exponentially especially among those with a commitment to maintain a level of contact, whether that’s through email, social media or an in-person meeting.
If the idea of building a network sounds terrifying, you’re not alone. As a society that places an emphasis on technology over personal contact, this can be intimidating, especially if you’re an introvert. Karen Wickre, a former editorial director of Twitter, Google employee and self-described introvert has some tips for making connections that matter.
Wickre shares a view that introverts have a considerable advantage when creating meaningful connections. One of the most important is the ability to listen and observe. Asking a thoughtful question is a great way to break the ice while getting someone else to do most of the talking. A question could be about how they started working at a company, a request to know more about an accomplishment or specialty, or a curiosity about a conference or project they recently worked on. Learning which question to ask requires research and a healthy dose of creativity but knowing little details in advance helps to strengthen the connection. These skills are useful in a variety of scenarios from networking and interviews to making conversation during a work event or a social occasion.
Finally, employ the power of observation. Look for verbal and visual clues throughout the conversation. Is the other person making eye contact and smiling or are they anxious and checking their watch? Do they share things about their life outside of work or keep the conversation strictly professional? Each interaction is a learning experience and a chance to practice networking skills that will be beneficial for years to come. Over time, you’ll become the connector other people want to know.