Make a personal business card; make new friends, which in turn makes a successful network.
Old-school and new-school networking techniques are a happy combination that aids in professional success. Establishing a network helps create a professional support team for future goals and potential career opportunities.
Here it is, the old cliche: It’s not who you know, blah blah blah. There is a reason, though, it is an often-repeated phrase: It’s true. I have been able to make magic happen because I was willing to go up to new people I have met, share my goals and dreams with them, trade information, and keep in touch.
First, we have the old-school style of networking. This involves putting one’s self out there and making it a point to form connections with other people, especially people you admire and see as potential mentors. Define your passion and find ways to volunteer and participate with local clubs and charities. If someone looks interesting, strike up a conversation. Talk with people and find out about what they do any why. Share what you do and where you would like to go. Exchange information. Follow up.
A big key in networking is having any easy way to give out your information. I recommend creating a business card with your name, either a phone number or a professional email, and links to professional social media accounts. Vista Print is reasonably priced, with cards starting at $7.99. Or, you can talk to a digital design major and ask him or her about business card designs. Now, you have also made a new connection.
This segways into keeping up with your new contact. Social media, the new school way of networking, is such a fluid way to build a network and see what projects people are working on. LinkedIn would be the first site to build up as an online résumé and contact list. Next would a be professional Facebook and Twitter accounts. Reserve these accounts for sharing what you are working on in class, what new goals you interested in, and what projects you are focusing on.
Professional social media accounts are also a great way to keep in contact with your network and see what they are accomplishing, too. Comment, interact and keep in touch with your network. If you hear of something or read an article that reminds you of one of your contacts, share it with him or her and say why you were reminded of that person. Offer to go to lunch or even just grab a coffee to hear about what new things people in your network are doing. This also gives you a chance to share what you are accomplishing and to bounce new ideas off of someone you look up to.
With this information, you know where to seek out volunteer or career-related opportunities. Or, just even offer to facilitate other connections within your network if you know someone else that might be able to help out one of your friends.
Keeping in touch with your network is crucial. To be honest, this is the hardest part for me. It is important, though, because rapport is built and maintaining contact keeps fresh the reasons why you and the people in your network connected in the first place.