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Take these steps to grow your professional sphere from the ground up.
One word that makes professionals cringe is networking—especially now that we’re trying to network during a global pandemic. But a strong group of industry contacts is key to helping your professional development blossom. Granted, if you’re a newly minted college graduate hunting for a job, you have to build a network from scratch, which is no small feat. The bright spot: Learning how to network for a job is a science—if you combine the right ingredients, you’ll achieve a successful result.
Here are six steps to take to build your job search network.
Know how to make your pitch
A key part of effective networking is being clear about your job search goals and the value that you bring to an employer, which is where an elevator pitch comes in.
In a nutshell, an elevator pitch is a sound bite that explains to people who you are, what you do, and what kind of position you’re seeking. Why so short? “People are busy,” says Atlanta career coach Hallie Crawford. Recruiters don’t have time to hear your whole life’s story. So, keep your pitch to less than a minute.
Check out this well-crafted elevator speech from Monster Career Expert Vicki Salemi: “I’m Vicki Salemi, a career expert for Monster. Author, speaker, career coach, columnist, and former corporate recruiter, always interested in speaking with job seekers to help them find a better job—fast!”
As you build your sphere, make sure to keep detailed records of your networking activity: people’s names, where and when you met, and what topics you discussed. You’ll also need to develop a reliable follow-up system. “You need to stay in touch in order to stay on top of someone’s radar,” says Kelly Kennedy, director of career readiness at the University of Virginia Athletics. Keep those who are interested posted on the progress of your job search.
Leverage your alumni network
Your degree comes with a secret weapon: your college’s alumni network. In fact, many schools maintain a list of alumni who have expressed they want to help new grads with their job search. Still, you need to take a tactful approach when reaching out to alums, says Denise Rudolph, assistant director of employer relations and recruiting at James Madison University. “You can’t just send someone an email and expect the person to help you get a job,” she says.
Some guidelines: 1) introduce yourself and include your school year and major; 2) explain how you got the person’s contact information; 3) be specific with what you’re asking for from the person (e.g., “I’d love to hear more about what you do”); and 4) attach your resume.
Expand your horizons
When it comes to how to network for a job, you need to cast a wide net. Wider than you may think. In addition to alumni, you’ll want to tap every networking resource that’s at your disposal. Here’s a list of other sources for finding networking contacts:
- Community job clubs
- Fraternity or sorority groups
- Friends: Local and out-of-town
- High school and college classmates
- Hobby groups: softball team, running club, yoga group
- Managers and peers from your past internships
- Members of your church, temple, synagogue or mosque (some religious organizations also sponsor job search groups)
- Neighbors: Past and present
- Political groups
- Relatives: Local and out-of-town
- Service groups: Rotary, Kiwanis, Elks
- Volunteer groups
Build your circle remotely
In the age of social distancing, you may find you have fewer opportunities to network with people in person. Fortunately, social media can enable you to build relationships with people that you haven’t met—including recruiters at your target employers. (According to a survey of HR professionals by the Society for Human Resource Management, 84% of employers use social media to recruit talent.)
Specifically, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook can be powerful networking tools. You’ll have the most impact if you’re using social media on a regular basis—meaning you should be reaching out to new contacts and interacting with people in your network daily, not occasionally.
Rock informational interviews
The informational interview is an often-overlooked—and often misconstrued—form of networking, but going on informational interviews can be a great way to build your network.
The most important thing is to ask meaningful questions when you meet someone for an informational interview, says Jeff Neil, a New York City career coach and author of Informational Interview Handbook: Essential Strategies to Find the Right Career and a Great New Job. “You’re not there to ask for a job,” Neil says. “You’re there to establish a relationship and build rapport.” A good icebreaker: “How did you get started in the field?” “People like to talk about themselves,” Neil says.