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Recent Grad Series: Establishing a Professional Network

As many working professionals master the art of working remotely, college seniors are tasked with attending virtual graduation ceremonies to receive their hard-earned diplomas. This step is just the first of many that they must take to join an almost entirely digital workforce.

Despite this new and uncharted means of entering the working world, the pressure of landing a job is as prevalent as ever. Whether you are a first-time employee, or a seasoned professional looking for a career change, beginning the process of job hunting can seem like a daunting task — especially when the only means of doing so are through mobile devices, tablets and personal computers.

To aid in this new and uncertain process, the team at Accel5® has compiled resources for those looking to start their professional journey through networking.

Make Meaningful Connections

Building and maintaining a solid professional network is arguably the most important step to both starting and advancing in one’s career. A recent article by Talent Development (TD) explains that 85 percent of all open positions are filled through networking. This article highlights a 2016 LinkedIn survey that states that 70 percent of people were hired because they knew someone at the company.

When establishing your professional network, you will want to add the obvious people you know including professors, managers, coaches, colleagues, or anyone else you’ve interacted with in a positive and meaningful way throughout your college career. It can be tempting to want to connect with every person recommended to you just to get to the 500+ Connections milestone, however, merely collecting a superficial group of individuals is insufficient. Instead, develop a deeply connected network of people who can help drive your success.

By seeking out various types of people with unique personalities, you will be able to make your network transformative rather than transactional and develop a mutual exchange of value. In It’s Who You Know, Janine Garner explains how you can get on the fast track for personal and professional success by strategically developing and expanding your network. To do this, you must:

  • Connect to the right people. Develop a strategic network of individuals who can help you make the right decisions at the right time.
  • Connect in the right ways. The best network connections are two-way relationships that provide a mutual exchange of value.
  • Use your network to achieve greatness. A strategically established network will empower you to achieve your personal and professional goals.
  • Continually evolve your network. As you develop and change, you must update your network connections to increase and maintain their value.

Let Your Reputation Do the Talking

Once your professional network has been established, you should aim to create a positive and influential reputation amongst this group of people. The reputation you create can make the difference between being successful in your career to being chronically undervalued. If you want to move up the ladder in your chosen profession, your reputation will provide the fuel. In Build Your Reputation, Rob Brown explains that a strong and positive reputation earns favors, opportunities, and many other perks, such as:

  • Influence. If your reputation is strong, people will act on your words and respect your values.
  • Prestige. As you gain popularity, people will recommend you to others. This will put you on a “podium” where your ideas and skills can be admired.
  • Protection. Having prestige and a positive reputation means you can make mistakes and still expect forgiveness from your friends and defenders.
  • Fun. Good things happen when your reputation is positive and strong.

The reputation you create can make the difference between being successful in your career to being chronically undervalued.

Manage Your Network

As your network grows, you must communicate in very specific ways. Combine critical thinking and pointed ways of speaking and listening to quickly learn about people and extract the most relevant information that will help you remember them later on.

Although it is preferable to reach out and communicate in person, it is not always possible to do so (especially during a global pandemic). If you’re reaching out to someone online, don’t use a promotional, self-serving message poorly masked as non-promotional messaging. Instead, try these steps from Scott Gerber and Ryan Paugh’s Superconnector:

  • Start with a catchy subject line. Keep the subject as close to the point as possible.
  • Keep the message short. Briefly explain the specific reason you’re reaching out and how you can bring value to the recipient.
  • Be transparent with your goals and motives. Tell the recipient about work you’ve done that makes you relevant and valuable.
  • Offer a specific call to action. Be direct about what you want to happen and what you need from the recipient.
  • Have a clear-cut email signature. Tout any of your accomplishments in your signature.
  • Connect using the language of whatever platform you’re on. Use your platform to create collision digitally and transform your exchange into an in-person conversation.

For More Information

Accel5 provides concise, actionable content that enables professionals of all levels to develop critical soft skills such as communication, teamwork, leadership, innovation, managing change and more. Content is designed to be consumed in five minutes or less, making Accel5 ideal for busy professionals at all career levels — from recent college grads to seasoned executives.

If you are interested in improving soft skills related to productivity, stress management, leadership, working remotely, and more, check out Accel5’s free COVID-19 resources or try Accel5 for free for seven days.

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