Everything You Need to Know About Networking (that Your College Career Center Hasn’t Told You)

Posted April 12, 2013 by

NetworkingVisit any college career center and you’ll realize that “networking” has become the career-search- related buzzword of the century. As a new college grad, you’ll find this word plastered everywhere, and you’ll hear it repeated a hundred times in the avalanche of advice that career counselors and recruiters are likely to offer you.

But very few of these people will actually provide clear instructions on how to “network” effectively. And most college seniors let this word wash over them, because after all, they’re 22, have never held a professional job, and have no “network” to speak of. Simply reaching into your contacts list, calling your “connections” (what connections? Your professors? The manager at the restaurant where you’ve been waiting on tables part-time?) and asking them to hire you just isn’t a realistic job search strategy. Here are a few considerations that can help you make sense of this process and put it to use in a meaningful way.

What is a new grad’s network supposed to look like?

Of course you have no professional connections. (If you do, consider yourself lucky.) But here are some people who represent the next best thing. All of these people are available to you, and any one of them may be perfectly willing to talk to you about your career:

1.       Your professors, some of whom may have industry experience. (If you studied hard and contributed in class, this may be a more fruitful option for you.)

2.       Your parent’s friends. (Are any of them dentists, tax lawyers, salespeople, or whatever you’d like to be?)

3.       Your friend’s parents.

4.       Your roommate’s parents.

5.       Your restaurant manager’s parents, spouse, or grown children.

6.       Your restaurant coworker’s parents or friends.

Okay, I have a few people in mind, including my classmate’s mom, who I think is an IT manager.

Great. Your next step will be to ask your classmate for her mom’s contact information. Once you have this information in hand, you’ll need to reach out to this woman and politely ask her if she can spare a few minutes to provide you with some answers and advice. If she agrees, make sure your questions are carefully thought out, written down, intelligent, and genuine.

Ask her what it takes to succeed in the IT field, what obstacles you may face, and what companies she thinks you should reach out to. Ask her how she landed her first job. Ask her if she enjoys working in IT. Ask her what she thinks you should do next.

How will conversations like this get me a JOB?

They probably won’t. At least not right away. You’ll need to follow these steps with several people, and you’ll need to listen very carefully to the answers you receive and the clues they provide. If you learn from these exchanges and your contacts walk away remembering you, liking you, and knowing you need a lead, they may suggest your name the next time they hear about an open position.

But these people are not my friends.  I don’t even know them.

That’s fine. A network doesn’t have to be a list of close friends. It simply needs to be a list of people who are indirectly linked to you in our vast social web. With more distant connections, your network reaches further. At times like these, it doesn’t pay to shy away from rejection and hide at home. Be bold. Be resilient. The worst thing you’ll hear is “no”.

And this will help me get my foot in the door of a promising company?

Yes. But only if you actually do it. And you’ll need to blend this process with time spent searching job boards, attending job fairs, and sending out resumes. Take a multi-faceted approach, stay busy, and limit the hours you spend huddled at home in the glow of your screen. Nobody said job searching would be easy. But your willingness to get out the door, risk rejection, engage with strangers, and relentlessly pursue what you want will expose you to potential employers AND make you more appealing to those in a position to hire you.

LiveCareer (www.livecareer.com), home to America’s #1 Resume Builder, connects job seekers of all experience levels and career categories to all the tools, resources, and insider tips needed to win the job. You can connect with us on our website or social networks for even more tips and advice on all things career and resume-related.

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