According to Forbes, over 72% of Gen Z plans to start their own business one day. One question many aspiring young professionals ask themselves when building a business is, “How do I build a powerful network? How can I reach out to people and build meaningful connections?”
There is an art to the process—and it’s not just attending networking events.
1. Establish yourself as a thought leader.
The fastest route to showing your value as a young professional is to find your niche and start to “own” it.
Too many people want to wait until they have hit a certain point, achieved a certain title (or worse, made a certain amount of money) before they start to establish their thought leadership. But when will you ever be ready? It’s crucial to stop overthinking it.
Chances are, whatever you define that moment to be, once you get there, you’ll still not feel ready. The truth is, you’ll never be truly ready. You just need to take the things you’re interested in, and start.
Start sharing what you learn as you go along. Start providing value to others. Start participating in the larger conversations within your niche or industry. And slowly but surely, people will begin to take notice.
2. Build your personal brand.
Young people especially still rely too heavily on resumes and job titles to represent who they are and what they do. Instead, start building your presence—both online, and in your immediate community.
Make sure your profile pictures are professional and friendly. Make sure your headers are designed and explain what you do.
Make sure your bios are proofread. Make sure the content you are putting out is a good reflection of who you are and what you know.
If you do these little things, then when people look you up they will be impressed—and when you have a well-crafted personal brand, far more willing to listen to what you have to say.
3. Utilize social media.
One of the greatest assets a young person has is social media—and the inherent fluency of each platform. Twitter, for example, is an incredible way to reach out and connect with people you would otherwise never have the opportunity to meet.
You would be surprised how many people (especially in your area) respond and are willing to either hop on a quick call to connect, or meet up for coffee. It’s all about how you present yourself.
The caveat here is that your chances of connecting increase exponentially when you have something to offer of value.
For example: If you are a blogger and you want to “interview” them for a blog, that’s value to them because that’s exposure. Find ways to deliver value and you will end up meeting a lot of people.
4. Ask for introductions.
Networking is an exponential thing. At first, it’s very difficult, and then once you start to get the ball rolling, it moves very, very fast. An introduction is, and will always be, more effective than cold emailing someone.
Utilize your surrounding network and ask for introductions to people you want to connect with—either through a friend, or a friend of a friend, or a friend of a friend of a friend.
That first impression starting with, “Hey there, I’d like to introduce you to my friend…” is so effective, and is a great way to start expanding your own circle.
The final piece of advice here worth noting is that true networking isn’t really “networking.” It’s just making a lot of friends.
The more people you connect with on a genuine level, the more people will want to help you. The key here is to always focus on how you can first provide the other person value. Offer to introduce them to someone you know.
Offer to help them out in some way. Show your value first, and others will be so much more likely to provide you value as well.