Networking is critical for professional development.

Networking is the cornerstone of professionalism and in the modern age, it is a hybrid of virtual and in person conversation.   How does one decipher the best approach to building a personal network of individuals for professional growth?  Well, I believe the first start is to not be overwhelmed with options and only bite off what you can chew. 
As a young professional, I have often found it difficult to find my “niche” in business, particularly because of the generational gaps that are intimidating.  It is important to be seen as an adult, without offending those of older generations. While jumping these hurdles I have developed a few good tips for those starting out in their careers who are trying to make a name for themselves. 
1. Mix traditional and modern (online) networking to get the most out of it.  There are some folks who do not like the idea of communicating virtually, and those who are intimidated in person so you can have a wider appeal with the use of both types of networking.
2. Always carry business cards, or something that you can provide after a good solid handshake.   It may seem archaic but it is an art that will never die.
3. Put away the cell phone.  Nothing is more distracting when you are talking to someone then them constantly checking their phone and it portrays the idea that you aren’t really listening. 
4. Listen, listen, and more listening.   Don’t just hear what the individual is saying, offer insights or if nothing else, ask questions.  It will show that you are willing to play with the “big kids” and have value to offer.
5. After having a discussion with someone in person that you would like to connect with is the time for the virtual aspect of networking.   Go find them on LinkedIn or another social media source and continue the conversation.  Follow up!
6. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself.   No one is too important to talk to and it is more than likely up to you to initiate the conversation.
These tips don’t guarantee success at a networking event but they are certainly a good start.   The best way to get comfortable is in the old adage: “practice makes perfect.”


Written by: Shaina Yowell


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