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Networking Advice For Young Professionals

By Brendan Alan Barrett

Network Your Way to a Career You Love... FAST!

Even if You’re a Young Professional or Just Moved to a New City



Networking. Professional Development. Community.

The ambiguity of these ideas can make them intimidating. Especially for the young professional who is early in their career or who has moved to a new city.


Where do I start?

What groups should I join?

Which events are worth attending?

How do I know if I’m doing it right?


If you’re asking yourself these questions you’re not alone.


In fact, you’re in the majority. Especially among those at the dawn of their career or who have just recently moved to Phoenix. The GET Phoenix membership and attendees of GET’s monthly events reflects this reality.


Many of us moved to the valley for school or were relocated here by one of our first jobs following graduation. Which means we don’t have the community or professional foundations we may have had back home.


However, participating in GET Phoenix and other organization here in the valley have helped us build those foundations in record time.


As young professionals looking to grow personally, professionally, and into our roles as contributing members of the greater Phoenix community – we know that just getting started is the hardest part.

To help demystify the ambiguity that comes with being new to town or just at the start of your career, GET has enlisted the advice of business and community leaders here in the Valley of The Sun.


A few notes about this article...

  1. Connect with the folks who have contributed their advice below. Connecting on LinkedIn is a great start but connecting in-person would be even better. Try attending an event hosted by the organizations these business and community leaders represent or mention below. You’ll be surprised at what you learn and the opportunities that seem to find their way into your life, simply by taking a few minutes to engage with folks who have been where you are now and who now stand where you aspire to be.

  2. Take action. No amount of consuming personal and professional development content like this will make any difference in your life if you don’t act on it. The individuals below have built successful careers and businesses on the back of the principles they’ve shared for this article. To not act on this advice is admitting you don’t care about growing in all the ways you’ve been telling yourself you need to.


Networking Advice For Young Professionals

Phoenix Business and Community Leaders Share Their Best Advice on Networking

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Do Your Homework Before You Arrive

Ken Bonham | Partner | Highnoon


To the best of your ability, know your audience.  Take the time to know who will be there.  Some events have RSVP lists that are made public if you are a member of the group or have RSVP’d.


If you don’t have access to who will be attending do your best to be knowledgeable of the group, association, or industry.


Know a few things that are going on in the world, this is why reading or at least skimming the Phoenix Business Journal weekly is a good thing.  Doing this gives you a few things to talk about and you come off as being well rounded.


Always do your best to identify the most influential person in the room and meet them.  This could be the featured speaker, the CEO or Executive Director of the group hosting; try your best to meet them.  If you don’t know, ask somebody ‘Who do I really need to meet here tonight?’

Ken Bonham has parlayed his networking efforts into sitting on the Better Business Bureau’s Pacific Southwest Board of Directors and as the driving force for new client acquisition at his first marketing and consulting firm, Lucid Agency. Ken continues to do so following Lucid Agency’s collaboration with Bigfish Creative Group has leading to the formation of an all new agency, Highnoon.


[Connect with Ken Bonham on LinkedIn]



Networking Success is Counter-Intuitive

Josh Weiss  | President | 10 to 1 Public Relations

While it may sound counter-intuitive, you’re not attending the networking event to find a client or a job.  You’re going to make connections and relationships. Your goal should be to find 2 or 3 people that you personally liked at the networking event.


You then need to make a point of running in to them again - possibly at the same event a month later - and talking again.


It’s okay to talk about the same topics over and over—it’ll actually make you more memorable.


One trick to remembering conversations is to write what you talked about on the back of their business card after the event.


If you talked about baseball and their favorite team, you can send them an email follow-up referencing the conversation to say it was nice to meet them, or you can bring up their favorite team next time you run into them at a networking event.


Over time, they’ll start to remember you and will seek YOU out at events.


When that happens, you’ll notice that they’re really starting to pay attention to you. They’ll start helping you to make business connections. That’s when your networking efforts really pay off.

Josh Weiss is the President of 10 to 1 Public Relations, a strategic communications firm that specializes in media relations, crisis communications, trade shows and award nominations for local, regional, national and international clients.


[Connect with Josh Weiss on LinkedIn]



You Get What You Give – Be a Super Connector

Jason Bressler | Founder | Phoenix Metro Chamber


You always want to make sure that you follow-up with your new connections and continue to further discuss opportunities to work together.


As you meet and get to know others, I recommend seeking opportunities to connect those who would benefit from meeting each other.


If you are a good listener and are genuinely interested in learning about the other person, their business or their interests, you will be remembered.

For this reason, I highly recommend that you focus on talking about what the other person does as opposed to talking about what you do.

Jason Bressler currently serves as a Founder of the Phoenix Metro Chamber of Commerce, a Board Member and a Charter Member of the Phoenix Metro Chamber Foundation, the Director of Community Outreach for Let It Roll Bowl & Entertainment, the President of Marketing and Director of Business Development for Dose Moving & Storage, and a Marketing Consultant for Diamond Cube Promo.


[Connect with Jason Bressler on LinkedIn]



Find Common Ground and Build From There

Gelie Akhenblit | Founder | NetworkingPhoenix


When it comes to networking, you have to think of it as "making new friendships," even if you're only going there to make professional connections.


You're not going to easily connect with someone if you don't naturally "click" ... and that click comes from commonality and likability.


What do you have in common?


Do you both like similar things?


The best advice I can give you is to stop worrying about what you're going to say and focus on asking open-ended questions and listening to the responses.


The more you listen to people, the more they like you ... and they don't even understand why. As they are talking, listen for any commonalities and then expand on those.


Do this in all your interactions and watch your personal and professional network grow.

Gelie Akhenblit is most well known for the vision and execution of her unique networking platform, NetworkingPhoenix; which she founded in 2008 and has since revolutionized the landscape of networking. Gelie also works with clients and companies on a consulting basis in helping them grow. She is who you engage with when you understand the value of that "one connection" that can change the trajectory of everything.


[Connect with Gelie Akhenblit on LinkedIn]



We’re All More Interesting What We Do For Work

Christina Kehoe | Phoenix Co-Director | Startup Grind


Jumping in with the old stand-by, ‘So what do you do?’ isn’t the worst thing you can do, but it certainly doesn’t make the best first impression.


People are so much more interesting than what they do for work.


If you can find out what people are truly passionate about, it’s easier to find commonalities, and you’ll find that you make yourself more memorable.


It’s okay to ask what someone does for a living but try not to make it the first thing you ask someone.


After the initial name exchange, open up with something like:


- Did you get a chance to go to the Phoenix Open?


- Did you do anything fun for the Fourth of July?


And now that you’ve opened the door to good conversation and possible relationship, don’t ruin it by nervously defaulting to the tactics of a card pusher.


Nothing says ‘I don’t give a sh*t about you,’ like immediately shoving your business card in someone’s hand before they’ve even really said hello.


After you’ve done the work to make a connection, then go a head and exchange info, cards, what suits your fancy.


I suggest sending an email right away, or a LinkedIn connection WITH a message that reminds the person where you met and why (how you or the other person could be helpful to each other).


Sometimes I’ll have people reach out to me months later, and I feel so embarrassed not remembering the connection. Do us all a solid and give us something to reference. 😊


Something that looks like...


‘Hi Mike, it was great meeting you at GETPhoenix tonight, I would love to talk to you more about your involvement with Phoenix Suns Charities, I’m a fan of the team and would love to get involved myself. Let’s set up a time to talk more.’

Christina Kehoe is the Marketing Manager of public relations and communications at Homie, a brokerage building software to streamline home buying and selling. When she’s not in the office, you can find her working in the #yesphx community to progress the tech and entrepreneurial ecosystem of Arizona, advocating for the Boys and Girls Club, or at a hockey rink coaching the girls of the Arizona Kachinas.


[Connect with Christina Kehoe on LinkedIn]


Being Calculated Makes You More Sincere

Damon Andersen | Branding Expert | DamonAndersen.com

I only hand out a business card if someone asks for one. That way I know they are truly interested in getting to know me and my company better. It doesn’t help your reputation if you’re forcing someone to accept a business card right after meeting them.


I also like to bring a satisfied client with me when I attend business networking events. That way I can make introductions for them and vice versa. It’s like having a living, breathing testimonial speak on my behalf.

Damon Andersen helps small to medium-sized businesses stand out from their competition through the power of branding. Damon facilitates branding workshops to help his clients develop their verbal brand messaging and visual applications.

[Connect with Damon Anderson on LinkedIn]

- TLDR - Networking Cheat Sheet For Young Professionals

Before a Networking Event


Pick events based on what you hope to gain...

  • Are you attending to learn something new?

  • Are you looking for leads on a new job?

  • Are you prospecting for new business or sales opportunities?

Know who you want to connect with before you arrive...

  • Preferably you can get as specific as knowing the name(s) of who you want to connect with while at the event.

  • If possible – call, email, or LinkedIn message the person(s) you want to connect with prior to the event. This way the idea of connecting with you in-person is already on their mind before the event even starts. This increases the likelihood your in-person connection will actually occur.

  • If you’re looking for sales opportunities or referral partners, define the characteristics that someone must have to be either.


During a Networking Event

  • Approach the task of proactively meeting stranger and making connections as if you’re there to make friends. In doing so, make the conversations about them and what they want to talk about.

  • You’ll make yourself more INTERESTING – and therefor memorable - by simply being INTERESTED in those around you. Eventually they’ll return the favor and ask you to talk about yourself.

  • Don’t be a card pusher but do exchange cards and/or connect with folks on LinkedIn using LinkedIn’s event features (Learn more HERE).

After a Networking Event

  • Follow-up via phone, email, or LinkedIn with each new connection you made simply to say it was a pleasure to have met one another.

  • The sooner you follow-up and the more context around your meeting used in this outreach, the more likely your new connection is likely to remember you and respond.

  • Be a super connector. Find opportunities to introduce your new connections to one another for reasons they’ll thank you for. (How can your new connections benefit from knowing one another?) These unprompted favors make you hard to forget and someone connections what to help.

  • Make a point to run into your new contacts at future events and continue your previous conversations. Even if the conversation has nothing to do with business, doing this show your new connections that they were important enough for you to remember. They’ll become more and more pleased to show you the same level of importance, especially if means bringing you the very opportunities you’ve been networking to find (I.e. new jobs, sales, etc.).

Want to Put These Best-Practices to The Test?

Join GET Phoenix for our next event!


Learn about all upcoming events [HERE]