As we approach the weekend before our 21st annual Career Opportunities Fair at the Cobb Galleria in Atlanta (yes, a shameless plug), I am thinking about the power networking and how it has evolved in the past ten years. This year’s graduating class has a much different perspective on networking than those of us just graduating maybe 10 or 12 years ago. Today it goes beyond just attending a career fair. Technology has made information instantly accessible. Because of social media, people are becoming more accessible as well. Social media as well as company websites make it easy to find out about job openings. So is it still important to get in front of an employer? You better believe it!
In our roles within the Career Center at Georgia College, we have seen new graduates and alumni who think they are doing all they can to find a job. When we dig deeper, we usually learn that they are using only one search method which is often a generic internet job board. If this is you, then stop. You are in a job search rut and it’s time to reassess your plan and enfuse it with some good old fashioned networking.
Networking isn’t as intimidating or icky as it sounds. Do you realize that you network every time you go to class and talk to your professors and peers? Each time you get on Facebook and connect with a friend, you are networking. Each time you build a mutually beneficial relationship, you are networking.
As you search for internships or a full-time job, use these networking techniques to connect with a real person who may be the key to finding your first professional position.
Take advantage of opportunities to meet employers who visit campus or other Career Center sponsored events. For many of us, we put our own professional development aside in order to meet other obligations. When you take the time to talk to an employer who visits campus, you stand out in his or her mind when you apply. You go from being a number to being a real candidate.
Join LinkedIn. Build a profile and begin connecting with people you know such as faculty and staff, peers, past supervisors, and family friends.
Join Groups on LinkedIn that relate to your professional goals. Through these groups you can begin to connect with people who may work for organizations that interest you.
Set up informational interviews with people you are connecting with via LinkedIn, campus events, and personal networking. Perhaps your mom’s best friend’s cousin works in pharmaceutical sales. Don’t just pass a resume to him and hope for the best. Get his email address or phone number and request a time to get information about his career path. Remember that you are asking for information and not a job. In the process, you will have a better idea of how to apply for a job with the organization and you may have another lead.
Each time you apply for a job online, determine if you know someone who may be connected to the company. The individual may not be a decision maker for that position, but he or she is in the company and may be the conduit you need for making the right connection with a hiring manager.
Get involved in activities that relate to your field. Whether it’s volunteering with a non-profit, joining a professional organization, or taking a part-time job, if you can be around those who do what you want to do, then you will making strong connections and gaining more experience.
Lastly, be diligent, set weekly goals, and follow-up with the people you meet. If you do something each week to meet new people and expand your job search network, you will be that much closer to your goal of finding a job.