New College Grads and Networking Skills

Have you noticed the trend where some folks just graduating from college are taking a bit longer to find a meaningful job?  This doesn’t include situations when Mom and Dad find their kid that perfect job lead or internship.  Former school connections certainly help, but does that really teach the 20-something the right lesson or jump start what will become four decades of networking know-how?  Some would say,  ‘No way!’  A close friend pointed out that he often is surprised by how many people think the primary goal of networking is to see if the person has a job lead for them.  Read on to find out how wrong they are.

Five Not-So-Easy Techniques for Expanding Your Network

  1. Make your LinkedIn profile look professional.  This isn’t your college Facebook page.  Have a professional picture taken.   Add skills so you can get endorsements from others.  Write a summary that shows you have a goal and intention for your career.  Join groups to get access to more people in you field.  LinkedIn is now the place to have professional dialogues, so join in the conversation and get noticed.  Look at other profiles and borrow best practices from them.   Look closely at job descriptions in LinkedIn. If you are an analytical person, examine ten similar descriptions to discover the common themes and skills.  There’s so much data out there that can help you tailor your profile and message.
  2. Think through what you have to add to a conversation – build knowledge around three to five popular areas in your field.  Look for major trends that both directly relate to your field and ones that are outside your field but intersect it.  Read what people are saying about them, do research yourself on the topics and have an opinion.
  3. Get introduced to people in your field.  Even if you don’t see a clear path towards a job, use all of your connections.  Develop your network and ask other people that you see on LinkedIn to introduce you to their co-workers.  If you’re an introvert, this might be tough and take time and practice. Use you friends or alumnae from your alma mater. Try to generate an informational interview.  If you develop a rapport with someone you’ve met, try to get an introduction to one of their colleagues.
  4. Target 20 companies you would love to work for.  Use LinkedIn to get connected to people at those companies.  How do you get the names of these companies?  Here are a few threads to consider.   Are you limiting yourself to a specific geographic area?  Each metropolitan area, such as  San Jose, has a list of top companies in the vicinity.  If your interest in a certain industry is in a particular vertical sector (finance, healthcare, insurance, etc.) you can find the top 20 companies in that area.  You may even find that many of them tend to be clustered in a certain geographic area.  If you are in a field that has broad applicability across many industries, you might want to think about the size of the company you are most inclined to work for.  Are you a Boeing guy or do you see yourself working at a small design shop?  If you’re in the software industry, do you want to work at a big company or a start-up?
  5. Find a local Meetup, event or conference to attend.  If you’re living away from your college area, check the local colleges for events or activities.  Find out when the major conferences are or find  a corporate event that has a vendor expo.  Oftentimes, getting into the vendor expo is free.  Get creative; maybe your family members can chip in to help you attend a conference.

The interesting thing to me is that very little of this is taught in college.  On the other hand, we as parents and senior colleagues need to pass it forward.  A few years after college, much of what you learned in hard facts and methodologies will be out of date.   Transferable skills and learning how to expand your network will pay off for decades.

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