In your twenties, you’re a step above the naivety of your teen years but a step below the realistic complexity of the rest of your life. Being in my twenties as well, I have realized that it is at this stage that our lives begin to form a realistic future ideal. We have already discussed the essential financial decisions you should make in your twenties here. Today, we will discuss networking!
Networking is an essential part of building a successful career, and if done strategically and intentionally, it can be very powerful. Being in your twenties and having a formidable professional network is one of the best ways to excel in life faster; the path to becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Chude Jideonwo and all the wonderful young entrepreneurs changing the world in different sectors of the economy today. Building the right network in your twenties is vital because your network is your net worth and what better time to start building that network than now?! Many of the relationships we foster in our twenties will travel with us throughout our lives and continue to shape us. So we need to choose our network wisely.
Here are 5 ways you can build a long lasting professional network that will make your twenties a career fulfilling one:
1. Start with your inner circle
In school and in our early professional years, we have the luxury of forming truly genuine bonds. At this stage, it’s not your paycheck or connections that interest others; it’s you. Sadly, the older and further along in our career we get, the more we start to question the motives of the people seeking our friendship. So take advantage of the sincerity of your relationships now and start with your group of friends. Sure, we all may be at the bottom of the corporate ladder right now, but we won’t be there forever. You and your friends will go on to become managers, presidents, partners, founders, CEOs etc. You and your friends are the future decision-makers. Decision-makers impact change, create collaboration opportunities, new businesses ideas, and new roles begin to emerge. Every business man is naturally inclined to keep his inner circle in the loop and seek their guidance on new business deals. Start with your inner circle.
2. Maintain relationships
It is important to maintain good relationships with old colleagues and friends when you move on to new opportunities. A simple “hi or what’s up” every three months or so to people you have developed a relationship with is all it takes. You never know how someone may be valuable to you later in your career! Always send a thank you or follow-up email or note after a meeting with or after a gesture from a business contact. Kindness and good manners will always be remembered.
3. Have a plan
Many of us network haphazardly; we meet many people, but we don’t have a plan. We might even think the more people we meet, the better. Wrong! Meeting the right people is more important. The right people are those that can help you reach your career goal. The right people are those people who are willing to speak up for you. You need to focus on people with whom you can build strong mutually beneficial relationships. Consciously look for them and develop a rapport with them.
4. Technology is your friend
People in their twenties today have unlimited resources at their fingertips, thanks to technology. Let your twenties be a time where you create, innovate, and collaborate. Learn how to use the digital tools available, like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook etc. to connect and network with potential employers, mentors, and clients.
5. Be yourself and find a common ground
I know this is cliché but it is true. I often hear people complain that they don’t know what to say when they first meet people at networking events. They stumble over their elevator pitch trying to impress someone with their title or expertise. Here’s the thing to remember: It’s the common ground that matters. Ask questions, listen and speak up. The things you have in common will help to establish a connection that will blossom over time.
TV and Radio Talk Show Host, Chelsea Krost said “your twenties should be the time when you build your personal brand and network”. She is right! Don’t let your twenties be a blur of parties and meaningless fun, build a professional brand and network wisely!
About the Writer: Ejura Salihu is a writer and editor at Connect Nigeria. She is passionate about Nigeria and impacting lives positively. Connect with her on twitter @icyquin_msc