Recent Grads Explore New Ways to Network

December 5, 2013

Millennials grew up hearing that their career success will depend on networking and they have enthusiastically responded. Not only have these recent grads embraced all the traditional methods of connecting with other professionals, but they’re creating some of their own successful techniques.

Of course, networking, or getting to the point where you can network, may be easier today than it was in past generations. You no longer have to make personal or even voice contact with a hopeful mentor to suggest coffee. Invitations through email give the receiver a chance to think about a response without being put on the spot, making it easier for both sides. So young professionals, fueled by the knowledge that they’re supposed to connect, and having a pretty painless way to initiate it, are doing a better job than their parents ever did. And after they’ve had some success with mentor networking, contacting a total stranger becomes a little easier. Some are wading in through industry conferences and alumni networks. Others set up informational interviews and stay in touch, not only until they land a job, but afterwards as well.

But Gen Y professionals are also accessing networking opportunities through new technologies that make connecting feel as routine as brushing your teeth. LinkedIn has helped tons of professionals connect. Industry specific websites, such as Biznik for small business owners and ResearchGate for research scientists, allow interested members to learn from and connect with individuals in their specific line of business. Many networking websites, originally created to counter a lack of opportunities for women professionals to connect, serve a female base. One of the most extensive is85 Broads, originally a group for women on Wall Street and now 30,000 members strong consisting of women in an array of businesses. Once you become a member, you can view profiles of other members and tap them for advice. 85 Broads also facilitates local gatherings where its members can connect. It’s sort of a women’s LinkedIn, where members are more likely to respond to inquiries because they they’re in the same “club”. Websites like Levo League and Lean In Circles emphasize the creation of local groups of women getting together to share similar career interests. Levo League also provides a “Mentor” page giving members opportunities to connect with industry leaders. Lean In is the first women’s networking group that has effectively reached down to university women, encouraging them to create their own Lean In Circles on campus.

Treatings is one of the most creative new networking tools that young New Yorkers are accessing. The website is the career equivalent of an online dating site. A member proposes getting together for a drink (coffee, beer, etc.) with another member to learn about companies and industries. The young Vanderbilt grads that came up with the concept have enabled users to cut right to the chase with their site: get people face to face; information will flow and professional relationships will develop. Their site is growing rapidly and they hope to expand to other cities in the near future.

I became familiar with Treatings through a friend I met on Twitter, Regina Chien. Regina is one of the best Millennial networkers I’ve come across. She connected with me on Twitter, messaged me through Twitter and Linked in, and invited me to talk at TechCrawl, a conference at her employer, Silicon Valley Bank. I realized quickly that she had conceived of the conference, designed for college students interested in the technology industry, received approval from her bank, and coordinated the day’s activities. Through relationships with clients and social connections, Regina exposed the students to a number of tech employers throughout the day. Although self-interest wasn’t her motivator, Regina strengthened her client relationships and gained a cadre of new contacts all looking to enter her field. Regina has introduced me to several people who have been helpful for my career advice business, including the folks at The Daily Muse who published one of my articles, laterrepublished by Forbes. Not surprisingly, Regina got her current job through Twitter. One of her friends re-tweeted a job posting at Silicon Valley Bank which caught her eye. She then contacted an acquaintance in the tech space to see if that woman might know the person at SVB who posted the job. She did know him and made an introduction for Regina.

Like Regina, recent grads have become impressively savvy about making connections. The trick will be for them to hang on to those great relationships while they begin to build their careers. But they probably don’t have to worry too much; before long, someone will probably build a website for that.