Most people don’t hear the phrase “your network determines your net worth” until they’re in college. By then, the stakes are much higher and job opportunities often depend on how well you can maneuver through a room full of decision makers. One thing that I wish I knew earlier in life was that networking doesn’t have to wait until college. In fact, young adults can benefit greatly from networking as early as their freshman year in high school.
Of course, as a freshman in high school, you’re not expected to network for your career path—although you can. What a teenager should be expected to network for, however, is:
1. Part-time and Summer Employment
2. Letters of recommendation for college and other programs
#1 Part-time and Summer Employment
The importance of obtaining employment as a young person goes beyond simply having extra money in your pocket. You will also learn invaluable life lessons about professionalism that you’ll take with you to college and your post-college career.
#2 Letters of recommendation
A letter of recommendation is also extremely valuable because it further validates your claim as a worthwhile employee and/or student. Youth who have other adults vouching for their character and work ethic have a clear advantage when it comes to better employment and college acceptance.
Lastly, and just as important as the two previous points, teens should network to obtain a mentor. A good mentor will help you avoid some big mistakes in life while also putting you in place for valuable opportunities. Now that you understand why you should network, here’s how to do it the right way.
First, you have to know where to look. Local, well-established, non-profit organizations are usually great places to start networking. Often times these organizations have board members who also work for great companies.
Once you identify these non-profits, the best approach is to simply offer your service. As a young teen, there isn’t much professional value that you can offer to an established professional, so the best way to make a good impression is to work hard at giving back to the community being served. If you are sincere, you’ll be noticed.
Finally, once you’ve made some connections, make sure you show genuine interest in what each person does. Ask a lot of questions and offer your help with whatever you can. Networking is about giving. It just so happens, that when you give un-selfishly, people take notice. And when people notice you for doing good, they tend to reciprocate that positivity.