Networking Tips for the Underrated and Underpaid Young Professional

It’s graduation week. With a four year degree in hand, you’re ready to take on the world. You can’t wait to get your first real job. You’re totally over answering to professors, and drafting up ten page papers.

Why not kick off your new life with an industry networking event?

You show up at the mixer, ready to floor top level execs, but your night doesn’t go as planned. You struggle to get a word in edgewise, and unfortunately, no one’s wowed by your collegiate accomplishments.

Here’s the harsh reality. Think your degree will launch you into a six figure salary one month after graduation? Think again. You’re going to spend the next five years (at least), struggling to prove yourself.

You’ll break your back at an entry level 9-5, and might even start to question your sanity. Student loans just won’t wait, and you’ll be forced to pay on your education, long before it proves to be of any value.

So, with that said, how can you gain a quicker competitive edge? While many young 20 somethings see networking events as just another drinking night, you must break that mold.

Here’s a handful of tips to get you started.

A business card is like an all access pass – don’t bother attending if you don’t have one.

Business cards are a bit dated, but for networking, they’re still completely applicable. Make sure your card has that extra oomph. Give it some sort of wow factor. Pay a real designer to put together a show stopping piece. If you don’t have a business card, don’t even bother attending.

Do some pre-event strategizing.

Go into it with a plan. And no, your plan shouldn’t revolve around alcohol consumption and meeting local singles. Set goals. What do you want to accomplish at this networking event? Are you looking to leave with contact info for potential employers, or add to a growing client list? By setting goals, you can get in and get out, with something to show for your time.

Kick the corporate look up a notch.

Don’t show up in drab 9-5 to garb. Sure, keep it professional, but make sure you stand out. Ladies, throw on a pair of siren red heels under those grey trousers. Guys, give a conversation starting tie a spin.

What do you bring to the table?

What is your “feature added benefit”? What can you offer top level execs? Maybe you’re a Photoshop whiz, and design high converting banner ads in a matter of minutes. Or, maybe you have a knack for closing new leads on first contact. Either way, what can you offer top level execs in exchange for their time and consideration?

Learn how to sell yourself at networking events. As a new college grad, most industry pros will see you as just another eager entry level candidate, until you prove otherwise.