A College Students Guide to Networking for Employment

7:42:00 PM

Three years ago, I was hired by a private computer investigation company. Not because I was talented, not because I was educated and not because of my credentials. I was hired simply because I knew somebody. Three years ago, I went behind my bigger brothers wishes and contacted his old employer. I was aware my brother had received an internship from this employer with a semi-relevant degree and very little previous experience…I had neither. I gave them a call anyway and was told to come in. After a short conversation my future boss, a very kind and blunt man, shot me straight. “I’ll be honest, you’re not qualified for this internship, but I’ll give it to you as a favor to your brother”. 
The comment stung a little, but it was the truth. I wasn’t qualified for this position and I knew it when I made the phone call. I threw a hail Mary and it miraculously worked in my favor. Lucky for me my brother was an outstanding investigator when he was with the company and they were sad to see him go. It wasn’t what I knew, it was who I knew.

Fast forward three years and I have become an outstanding investigator for this company that my brother once was. I was written off as a joke and no one, not even myself sometimes, could have envisioned me staying for three months let alone three years. That old mantra “It isn’t what you know, it’s who you know” couldn’t be more true.

Since that stroke of luck that I stumbled upon I have gotten an AAS degree and have three years of experience under my belt but have failed to move on. I’ve aced plenty of job interviews in person and over the phone (If you’re looking for tips on that you can find them here) only to see the offer go cold shortly after the interview. In many cases, it was a job I was over qualified for. What I knew didn’t matter in these instances, I didn’t have a connection. It’s not to say a connection is a must have, but it helps tremendously. Networking has become more important now than ever before.



A man in a knit cap plots out his networking on a whiteboard in marker
Before you know it you'll need a chart to keep track of your web of connections. Photo Credit: startupstockphotos.com

It Starts on Campus
Networking doesn’t have to start with your first entry level job. It culminates in those few moments you have right before and after class. Start forming a professional relationship with your professor. Don’t rush right out to a professor at the end of a semester and ask if he/she knows of any jobs. You’re going to need to let the relationship develop organically. Get on a personal level with all your professors. Share stories and show your interest in the field. Once you reach a certain point, extend a Facebook Or LinkedIn connection their way and keep in touch on relevant topics every so often. You’d be surprised how they might think of you when a position is thrown their way.

And Speaking of LinkedIn
I’ve spoken a lot about the importance of LinkedIn lately and that’s for good reason. I truly do believe it’s an invaluable asset for carving a name out for yourself. Reach out to relevant people in your field and leave intellectual comments on articles and posts. The tips I gave previously, are a great way to start out on LinkedIn, but do not simply wait to be engaged by recruiters and future opportunities. Put yourself out there and join in the conversation. Joining LinkedIn groups for your respective field is a great way to gain knowledge, insight and connections. Well thought out replies will send traffic to your LinkedIn page and help create an online personality that may resurface when others see your name come up in future posts. I personally keep in touch with an employer I had an interview with. I was ultimately turned down due to my lack of a four-year degree but we chat on posts and in private message from time to time and I’ll be sure to make him aware once I complete my degree. Positions open up every day.

Utilize Your Current Job
Okay, you’re going to need to be subtle about this one but using your current job to enhance your career is an intelligent, if not obvious, move. Its happened many times before. A company brings in an outside team to perform a task and winds up hiring one of those team members to be dedicated to that role. This doesn’t mean to go around handing out your business cards with a “call me” and a wink to your current clients. However, following the same general rule of thumb of establishing a connection and bonding on a professional level is never a bad idea. Organic growth of relationships is again what you’re looking for. Doing so could yield some very favorable opportunities in the future.

You never know where your next opportunity is going to come from. If opportunity comes knocking, then think of every connection you make as a door. The more doors you can put up the more likely someone is to start knocking on one of them. Be friendly, be courteous, be engaging and be professional. No matter what you’re currently doing with your career, chances are something better lies ahead. 

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1 comments

  1. Agreed, networking is very important, for job leads, and references. Thanks for sharing your experience, it is helpful!

    ReplyDelete