I walked out of the Networking Discussion with Alexa Johnson last Wednesday energized for the future as well as incredibly anxious.
Johnson is a corporate marketing coordinator at Citi Habitats and founder of Contact Maven. She is the president of the New York City chapter of the IU Alumni Association.
Johnson speaking to IU students about networking in a new city.
I highlighted the five most important tips from the discussion.
1. Know Yourself: Johnson recommended identifying a list of 20 companies or agencies you want to work at. You can check out the IU Alumni Database to see if there are alumni contacts within those companies. Internships are a great way to try out your list of companies as well as cities. For instance, a summer in Chicago at FleishmanHillard can give you a good idea of whether that city or agency is a good fit post-graduation.
2. Pull the IU Card: Alumni want to help you out. Johnson said there are over one million living IU alumni. This is a huge network open to your disposal. Having a degree from Indiana stands out from the pack and employers realize that. If you can identify an IU connection at a company, use that as a talking point. Discuss the latest football game or what you are involved in on campus. This is a great commonality to get the conversation flowing.
3. Clean Up Your Digital Presence: Johnson said that if you haven’t already Googled your name to see what comes up, you should. Chances are this is exactly what employers will do when your resume comes across their desk. Make sure that only the good stuff comes up through Google. This can include a professional Twitter account, your blog or an online portfolio. Just make sure that your “fun” pictures from Cabo don’t appear, or take them off of social media for good.
4. Practice “Chic Follow-Up” With Connections: Once you grow your network (by using your IU connections), make sure you check-in with your contacts. Hand-written notes go a long way, said Johnson. People rarely receive real mail these days, so invest in a good set of stationary to stand out from the pack. Maintain your connections every six to eight weeks with relevant conversation or just to “check in.” This follow-up should take as long as it takes to drink a tall cup of coffee. But don’t forget about the importance of meeting in-person. Get together for coffee every once in a while. Your connection should not only exist in cyberspace.
5. Moving to a Big City Can Be Expensive: Johnson recommended that if you plan to move to a city like New York, you should have six months worth of money, or about $10,000, in the bank. Often employers won’t hire you until you move to the city, so you most likely won’t be receiving any income when you first arrive. Johnson suggests living in dorms, like on the NYC campus, to save money.
Above all, Johnson said, “It’s your life, don’t let anyone take that from you. Be bold. Be fearless. Be tenacious.”