By Taylor Faust
“It’s all about networking.” That seemed to be the key takeaway from every business visit I went on this summer. After a while, it became a running joke between my friends and I because almost every professional that spoke to our group had the exact same advice for our career development: network, network, network.
But, if you’re anything like me, going up and introducing yourself to a stranger with the sole purpose of trying to get ahead in your career can be daunting. It can be especially intimidating when you’re reaching out to someone that has much more industry experience than you do.
However, there are ways to get over that networking nervousness so you can get in contact with the industry professionals that are in a position to change your career trajectory.
First and foremost, don’t underestimate the power of LinkedIn. The social network for professionals has a wealth of knowledge about companies and employees in an incredible amount of industries. Once you’ve decided on a company or city, you can send an employee a connection request. In my experience, sending a message along with your request works well, and that way you’ve already started the conversation.
During my business visits, I was given another important piece of advice: Taking the time to build a relationship is an important part of the process. Don’t go into networking too focused on the end goal. In other words, don’t come right out asking for a job. If you take the time to get to know the other person, they will be much more likely to help you, and you may receive important advice by learning about their career path.
With any luck, the person you are connecting with will take an interest in you and your skills and will pass along your resume. Or, maybe they’ll put you in contact with someone else in the office that is in a better position to evaluate what you bring to the table. Either way, having the vote of confidence of your new acquaintance can only help you during the hiring process.
LinkedIn networking really works, and my position as an intern here at RLF is proof. When I decided to apply to the internship program, I reached out through LinkedIn and was given the Internship Coordinator contact information. From there, we set up a call where we talked about the program, expectations for interns, and what I could be doing at that moment to be better prepared when RLF began accepting applications. I truly believe that participating in that phone call was a major factor for why I’m here now, and I couldn’t be happier.
The more you reach out on LinkedIn, the more your confidence will grow. You’ll soon learn the best way to phrase your initial messages for an increased chance at a response, and, as a result, you’ll have more practice at the in-person and over-the-phone meetings. You’ll feel empowered take further steps to get out there and meet other people in your industry. Networking is a lot like playing sports: The more you practice, the better you get, so don’t let your nervousness stand between you and your dream job.