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How Can Young Professionals Network Without Feeling Too Pushy?

50-74% of the population is identified as an “extrovert”--that is, an individual who is energized by social situations. (And it goes without saying that in recent years the term “introvert” has come to be a synonym for “shyness,” which isn’t so!) That is a significant portion of the population and, unfortunately for introverts (who find social engagements draining and require private working spaces and time to recharge), the world is geared towards those who are naturally extroverted.

There are studies that suggest that younger generations are more likely to be introverted and to struggle with networking. In fact, most young professionals find the prospect of networking to help them build their careers daunting. (And as an introvert, I know I definitely did!)

Our CEO, Celeste, is the queen of networking. Ok, maybe in just my eyes, but she is very, very good at it. But she wasn’t always. She shared a great blog post about her first networking event and what she learned from it.

We wanted to share a few more tips for young professionals when it comes to networking. Often, the fear is that, in asking for advice, mentorship, or help, you come off too needy.

When I was first starting my career, there was a LinkedIn horror story that went viral. A 25-year-old woman looking for work had attempted to connect with a local woman on LinkedIn; this local woman ran a Job Board that effectively existed to help people network. You assume connecting on LinkedIn would be fine, but the woman’s response was, well, pretty mean. I remember reading that in horror when I was 3 years out of college and still struggling to find my feet. It was a learning story for everyone: millennials became a little more hesitant about networking and professionals became a bit more hesitant about sending nasty emails in return to requests they didn’t like.

So, without further ado, here are a few ways young professionals can start networking, without feeling too pushy.

1. Start Small

When you’re first starting your career, your network is going to be really small: fellow graduates, a few older alumni you met through school, your professors, family, and family friends. And that’s ok! The most important thing is knowing who your network is and working to stay in contact with them.

What does that mean, though?

It means exactly what it sounds like: the internet makes it easier than ever to stay in contact with people we know, whether it’s via email, Twitter, Facebook, or one of the other hundreds of way we can contact people. Sending text messages to ask how people are doing, commenting on their posts on LinkedIn, and asking questions throughout your job search will keep you up-to-date with what’s going on in their lives—and vice versa!

Keeping in contact with everyone available to you will help you start to slowly expand your network: your professors might introduce you to former students if you meet them for coffee; your family’s old friend might introduce you to their boss; and the circle goes on. Don’t be afraid to have a small network when you’re starting out.

2. Don’t Only Reach Out When You Need Something

We want to emphasize staying in contact with your network from the get-go. Don’t be the person who only sends a text or email when they need something. This is what will make you seem pushy to other professionals: when you are only asking for things, instead of wanting a truly professional relationship.

Congratulate former coworkers on work anniversaries; return those emails from your professors and former advisors; stay on top of your text messages, your LinkedIn messages, and more. This can all seem like a lot—but really, is talking to other people really that boring? That’s what we thought. And even better, most of this can occur from the comfort of your own couch, on your cell phone.

3. Offer Help in Return

Here’s an example: a former boss is lamenting that they need desperate help on their website. They need a designer ASAP but don’t know who to call. They’ve mentioned this in emails previously, but when you meet them for coffee one day, they seem particularly concerned about their website. You just so happen to have gone to school with someone who does freelance web design. It’s your chance to offer help and help your former boss expand their network!

When you’re first starting out in a career, it can feel like you should be your number one priority: starting your career, getting your first job, learning to negotiate. But networking is a two-way street; if people feel like they don’t get anything from your relationship, and are only helping you, they will start to pull back. Offering help when you can is a great way to keep your network thriving, and expanding.

4. Join Young Professionals Groups

Almost every chamber has a Young Professionals group. In Eugene, we have Eugene Young Professionals, which is a great way for younger professionals to remain active in their community and network with other people. If you haven’t joined your local Young Professionals group, we highly recommend you do! Meeting new people and having access to more opportunities in your specific community will go a long way in your career.

More Resources

Want more advice? Here are a few of our previous blog posts that might help you out:

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