Getting hired can be just as much about your strength as a candidate as it is about who you know. Networking is an important skill in today's job market, especially when you are up against job-seekers as brilliant as you are. Here are five tips to maximize your benefit from professional connections.
Networking can feel dry and transactional. New grads worry that they will take too much of someone's time, or appear to only be interested in someone for a referral. The first step to fruitful networking is to change your mentality. The truth is, professionals want new grads to succeed. They were once in your shoes, after all. In general, they love to provide advice and expertise they have learned throughout their career; it's a way to give back to the people in their field. If you can approach someone with the mentality that they want to help, you will feel more confident and less intimidated.
Show your commitment to a professional relationship. After that initial cold email, business lunch, or coffee session, show that you are willing to reach out regularly to keep in touch. An easy way to do this is to send thank you emails. After someone takes the time to meet with you, always formally thank them in writing. Reiterate how helpful they have been, and that you look forward to connecting more in the future. Keep them informed about what you're up to; if you get hired, change jobs, or are looking again, let them know so they feel involved in your success.
No matter what you're doing, be prepared to meet people. At a friend's wedding? At a family dinner? Waiting in line at the grocery store? Don't be afraid to strike up a conversation. Networking doesn't have to be with career professionals you met at a recruiting event. A friend of a friend might be the contact that helps you get your first job. If you feel strange bringing up your career at a social event, start with asking what other people are doing. If you find someone in your field, you can get their contact information and reach out at a more convenient time.
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