Tips and tricks for career networking, through the lens of a new grad

When I first started college, my greatest fear was career networking. Why? It entailed speaking with people I didn’t know and was a daunting reminder that, sooner or later, I’d have to join the workforce. I didn’t recognize its value until I secured my first internship through a family friend. Whether you like it or not, career networking skills are essential, so here’s how to do it like a pro.

Ask yourself: Who’s in your inner circle?

The connections you already have are the most valuable, because those are the people who personally know you and can vouch for you. Reach out to people in your immediate network about possible job opportunities, and don’t be afraid to be vocal about your career ambitions. If one of your family friends has a connection at a company you’re excited about, go for it!

One of my favorite professors referred me to Inner Circle Labs. I’ve always expressed my interest in pursuing a career in public relations, and one day, she forwarded me an email, letting me know that one of her friends was looking for new hires. The next thing I knew, I was hired on as an intern and, now, I’m a full-time associate.

RSVP for networking events and actually attend

Honestly, this was an area I really struggled with. Freshman and sophomore year of college I’d RSVP for a bunch of networking events, but would be too intimidated to actually attend. Eventually, junior year came around, and I had to start attending to get class credit. The more events I went to, the easier it got. I even started my own list of tips and tricks to help me get through the anxiety I had about networking:

  • Attend these events with a plus one – it makes speaking to recruiters/hiring managers less frightening
  • Prepare a pitch about yourself – you don’t want to stutter over your own name
  • Have several copies of your resume in hand – it sucks to tell an employer you don’t have one when asked
  • Collect other people’s info – grab as many business cards, as possible, and write little notes on them so you remember who people are & can follow-up with them later

Slide into the LinkedIn DMs

Yes, I said it. Networking doesn’t have to just be done in person. You can also digitally network via your LinkedIn and other social channels.

If you see a job opportunity pop up in your newsfeed, click on the company’s profile and see if you have a connection. If you do, direct message that individual with something like, “Hey [insert name]! I noticed you work for [insert company name] and I’m interested in hearing more about the company. Are you free anytime for a quick informational phone call?”

If you don’t have a connection, no worries. Research the company, and see if you can find a recruiter. Connect with them and make sure to send a personalized message along with the request. Lead with a brief introduction about yourself, then transition into why you’re DMing them. Let them know that you’re interested in the organization and would love to schedule an informational phone call at their convenience.

An employer once told me, there’s no shame in sliding into LinkedIn DMs, because the worst thing that can happen is you get a no. Plus, it shows you’re proactive, which is a trait businesses look for in potential candidates.

You, me, and coffee?

The one thing better than an informational phone call is an informational in-person interview. Don’t be overwhelmed by the word “interview” – just ask to grab coffee, something super casual. This is your opportunity as a job candidate to pick the recruiters brain about their company. Remember to bring your resume and be prepared to speak to your experiences, but – most importantly – create a running list of questions you want to ask them. That being said, it’s important to do your research on the individual you’re speaking with and the company prior to meeting with them.

Always, always follow-up with a thank you

Whether you spoke with an individual over coffee, on the phone, or at a networking event, be sure to always follow-up with a quick thank you within 24 hours that points out something specific to the conversation you had – the more specific the better. Recruiters meet with a lot of people, so by doing this, you’re refreshing their memory on who you are. Plus, a recruiter once told me she always appreciates a personalized follow-up, because it shows the candidate cares.

Don’t be intimidated by career networking, think of it like going on a bunch of first dates. You’re just trying to get to know companies better – no strings attached.