The initial goal was to post a blog weekly, but time flies. It's Monday, August 2nd and I could not be more excited to write this blog.
Throughout my time as a student, an employee and even as a friend, I have been given countless pieces of advice regarding networking and connecting. But let's be honest... none of us remember every single thing we are told . In this blog, I'll write about the ones that I have found to be the most important and effective.
Shake as many hands as possible.
Some of us were taught to always greet everyone when arriving to family functions. It would be rude not to, or at least that's what my parents always told me. This could not be more true when it comes to professional settings, and even casual ones. It's important to keep in mind that you truly never know who you could run into. The person sitting next to you at a restaurant may very well be a company's founder. Someone you see every day in class or at the gym could be working on launching a business with unimaginable potential. Your friend's friend who was invited to dinner could be an employee for a company you want to work for. There are so many times where opportunities present themselves and all that is needed is a conversation. Shake everyone's hand and get to know someone new. They could be your next employer, advisor, inspiration, motivation... you name it.
Treat everyone the same.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of treating everyone with the same respect. I am a firm believer that every single person has something valuable to offer, ranging from connections, to experience, to lessons and more. Giving everyone the same respect will allow you to build a foundation of trust with them, opening the opportunity for a deeper connection and more engaging conversation that may serve your future.
Compliment at least one person a day.
This one is a little friendly but personally, important one. Complimenting a stranger not only makes you feel kind or makes them feel special, but it is also an excellent ice breaker and conversation starter. The other person will warm up to you faster and feel more at ease, leaving room for a conversation that once again, may serve your future.
I know it can be a bit intimidating to open up a conversation with a stranger. It's even harder if you consider yourself to be a shy person. However, when you weigh out the pros and cons, and strategize wisely, you begin to question... what's the harm?
Well the worst thing that can happen is that the person will either be uninterested or bored, and make an excuse to end the conversation and forget about it by the end of the day. But the best thing that can happen... well the possibilities are endless!
Have met your next employer
Opened up a door for a scholarship opportunity
Connected with a potential sponsor for your education, a program, or a business you are looking to build
Have made connections with potential investors
Have expanded your connections which could lead to future opportunities
Here is a short, personal story on networking.
In the Summer of 2019, after I graduated High School, I attended the HACEMOS Scholarship Recipient Dinner. At this dinner, I had the privilege of sitting next to Rachel Ybarra, who at the time was the Assistant Vice President of External Affairs Operations at AT&T, now the Assistant VP of State Strategic Planning. During dinner, we had several conversations; about what High School I went to, what University I was attending, what my major would be, what I liked to do and more. I also asked her what she did, how long she was with the company, etc. We then connected on LinkedIn, where I would occasionally send her a message to keep up with her and ask whether she had any opportunities available. Back then, I had no idea how much connecting with her would come to shape my future.
Fast forward to 2020, the pandemic hits and I am unemployed! NYU sends us home and I have no idea where to start looking for a virtual job. All I knew was that I had bills to pay but no source of income. On March 23rd, I sent her a short message.
Two days later, I received an email with a job offer at AT&T as an external affairs summer intern. This became my most valuable and highest paid job until then.
After giving it my best that summer, and maintaining a good, professional relationship with Rachel, I asked for her guidance as I sought another job. She was happy to place some contacts and help me find my next position.
As soon as my AT&T internship was over on Friday, August 28th, 2020, I had a marketing position lined up for Renaissance Managing General Agency, the following Monday!
Not to mention, my AT&T internship had been extended for more than 2 weeks, as they loved my work and I maintained strong communication with my supervisors.
Not everyone will have a story like this, and it is most definitely a blessing, but who's to say that your story won't be like mine and even better? For me, it has gone from stranger to employer and stranger to mentor. For you, it could go from stranger to sponsor, stranger to friend, stranger to advisor, and so much more.
Recognizing the importance of networking and prioritizing your professional relationships can take you far. At times, it is the person sitting right next to you at a convention that has the key to the door of opportunities that you're looking for. Don't pass them up. Push through any fear you may have, fight against your shyness and start a conversation.
If you don't already have a LinkedIn profile or you haven't updated it, do that now. You'd be amazed at how many people you can connect with and the opportunities that are there.