Networking: It’s Not Just for Adults Anymore

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When you push aside all the technology, all the gadgets and apps and filters, you’re left with a simple truth: we’re people who like to connect with other people. We’re social creatures, always have been and always will be. Connection brings us love and happiness. It also brings us success. No matter what you want in life, chances are a person will make or break it. A new job? A person will make the call. A new business? A customer will make the difference. We may advance by the minute, but in the end we’re just people connecting with other people.

Nowhere is this more important than with your teen. Connecting with others through networking is no longer an option. It’s a mandatory skill. Long gone are the days when a degree from a good school would be your ticket to a great job. This may be years down the road for your kids, but like preparing for an exam in advance, building a network now—and learning the skill of connecting—is always smarter than trying to cram everything in the night before graduation.

From boosting their chances of future success and honing their communication skills to becoming more comfortable talking with adults and thinking of how they can serve others, building an effective network at any age comes with too many perks to ignore.

Dennis Charles, author of Word of Mouth, began his career helping teens navigate their way to successful careers and is a strong advocate for early networking. As he says, “While there has been a drastic rise in teaching math and science, this has led to decreasing social skills,” making it vital that parents take charge and teach their kids how to connect. Below are five tips from Charles to get you started…

Step 1: Teach your teen to build their network with intention. The idea isn’t to collect as many contacts as possible, but to develop a network of quality connections. Depth is far more important than width. Possible contacts for your teen include coaches, teachers, local business owners, and civic leaders.

Step 2: Teach your teen the importance of regular contact. A network is a living, breathing thing. It needs care and attention to survive and develop, so encourage your kids to reach out to the people in their network on a consistent basis, aiming for face to face whenever possible.

Step 3: Teach your teen that networking is a two-way street. It’s about giving as much if not more than you get. Anyone who constantly takes without giving thought to reciprocating will find his or her contacts quickly vanish. How can your teen deliver value to each and every person in their network? That’s the question to ask more often than how can their network help them.

Step 4: Teach your teen to use their love (obsession?) of social media to enhance their network. Social platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook make finding new connections as easy as a few clicks, not to mention the ease they offer of staying up to date and in touch. To kick things off, help your teen create and maintain an updated LinkedIn profile.

Step 5: Teach your kids, as early as you can, how to interact and empathize with other people. Ask them to order at restaurants, help them pay at the grocery store, stand by as they answer the door, and, most important, talk with them at the dinner table with no tech in sight. Or you can overachieve like Charles: “I used to have my teens do presentations at the family dinner table. At first it was uncomfortable for them, but they quickly got used to the concept of presenting themselves and their ideas.” Not a bad way to teach an invaluable lesson.

It’s never too soon to network or to build the skills of connecting with people. Start early, start strong, and help your teen develop an asset that will serve them for the rest of their lives.

Get the latest guide: The Seven Qualities of Successful Teens

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