Networking has become an increasingly popular buzzword in the professional world. It is a skill that young adults are encouraged to have, as they navigate job platforms like LinkedIn, send cold emails, attend professional development events, and hope to secure post-graduate offers.
The question of how to network successfully, though, is top of mind as college graduates of the class of 2023 prepare to enter the real-world workforce.
It is a topic that Byron Slosar, career expert and CEO of the HelloHive career platform, is passionate about. The former director of an alumni career networking program, Career Wave Programs, at Tulane University, Slosar founded HelloHive with the intention of connecting a diverse group of next-generation talent to hiring companies. He spoke with CNBC Make It, offering his perspective on the importance of networking – and the ways to do it effectively.
"Networking [should be thought of as] a verb, not a noun," Slosar says. "Networking is not 'I need to know someone to get a job.' Instead, in the capacity that I am able, I need to look around me, not just above me, for resources that can be helpful."
Having spent his career working with college students and young professionals, Slosar understands the pressure Generation Z feels as they try to secure their first jobs and make strides in professional development.
He encourages students to think in the short-term, rather than stressing about their long-term career plans.
"Who thinks it's reasonable to ask students about a five-year plan?" Slosar asks. "I am 42 and I just figured out my career. Embracing uncontrollable variables is possible by focusing only on what's next. When graduating college, think about that first job, not your whole career. Mitigate that pressure of feeling like you need to know everything and really just focus on what is most important."
"Let's focus on steps one and two because steps three, four, and five are bound to change," Slosar adds.
He shares four tips for the Class of 2023 as they aim to take those first career steps and effectively network to advance their career goals.
In the act of networking, more does not equal better, Slosar underscores.
"Networking is about quality, not quantity," he says. "Focus on meaningful conversations and connections that can truly help you move forward to the next step."
He urges the Class of 2023 to follow up on these meaningful conversations with only relevant updates.
"After your first meeting, stay in touch but don't smother. Remind them that you listened to what they said," Slosar explains.
As the Class of 2023 seeks to connect with those in their target industries, Slosar maintains that networking with recent graduates is often the most helpful. Connecting with university alumni from 1-2 years prior, he adds, will allow for timely job insight. What's more, he believes that recent graduates and young employees are often the most excited to help.
"Reach out to a peer rather than going way too high way too early," Slosar says. "You are increasing the likelihood of leveraging someone who has just been through the interview process and was successful in the eyes of the company."
Slosar shares that recent hires will not only be able to share relevant information about the hiring process but might also be able to connect the Class of 2023 to current recruiters. With more relevant entry-level insight, young professionals may be the most able to speak to the current hiring climate.
"Say I'm looking at investment banking for the first time. Under no rhyme or reason should I be reaching out to a managing director at an investment bank. I want to make sure that when I get to that person, I know exactly what is expected of me so that it is a meaningful transaction," Slosar says.
When establishing a network, recent college graduates should aim to present themselves in a more holistic manner.
"Take a close look at all of your life experiences, not just your professional ones," he says. "When you reach out to schedule a networking meeting and sit down for a conversation, focus on what experiences have been most meaningful to your professional development."
College graduates are more than their academic coursework and internship experiences, Slosar emphasizes. A networking conversation does not need to be a recitation of one's resumé, but rather, can be a more candid conversation about life experiences.
"[These experiences] can range from 'grit and hustle' jobs like driving for Uber Eats or working part-time in a restaurant to being a first-generation college student or student-athlete, whose diverse lived experiences are as resilient and relevant as anything else," he says.
The idea of networking extends further than professional events or online job platforms. In fact, Slosar shares, networking can happen anywhere.
"Not every networking opportunity will present itself as a career opportunity," he adds.
Slosar emphasizes that building personal connections and networks, especially in the post-graduate years, can only help young professionals as they aim to establish a footing in the professional world. Both personal and professional connections, he adds, are important to maintain.
"A connection can happen anywhere, so build networking into your everyday routine," Slosar suggests. "You can network while volunteering, working part-time at a restaurant or walking a dog. All of those interactions develop relationship-building skills and help build your personal network."
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