As your college career winds down to its bittersweet end and you start thinking about what is on the other side of that stage after you cross it, you will start to hear terms like “connections” and “networking” being tossed around. As a new grad, your current network might not encompass more than your basketball teammates, book club members, or your rowdy group of floor mates. Sure, these sorts of social groups are a great launching pad for building your network, but you can’t rely solely on your sorority sister’s dad or tennis coach’s cousin to hold the key to your dream job. As such, you should attempt to extend your network a little bit past that.
Networking events, with the specific purpose of connecting job seekers and employers, are an excellent way to start building your professional posse. However, these events can be unfamiliar and intimidating for college grads fresh to the “real world.” All of those suits and ties. All of those stuffy conversations. All of those people with important titles or extra letters after their names. Networking events aren’t for the faint of heart; they are for those serious about advancing their career and cultivating their future.
Here are some tips from a New Grad Life blog post on how you can utilize professional networking to jump start your career!
1. Show passion for the industry and company
New grads normally do not have much relevant work experience, but can impress potential employers with passion about the company and the industry. The following are crucial pieces of information college grads should research to impress employers.
a) The top 3 competitors in this industry
b) The company’s strengths/weaknesses
c) The company’s vision and values
d) Industry trends (social, economic, etc.)
2. Show interest in the person you are talking to
Company representatives respect sincerity and will open up as job seekers ask questions. Most people are happy to talk about themselves (what they do for a living, how they got involved with the company, etc.) so college grads should show some genuine interest in the person they are speaking with.
3. Brand yourself with an “elevator speech”
It is necessary to create a brief 30-second speech in order to project a personal brand that sets you apart from other recent graduates seeking employment. If you haven’t had a corporate job yet, it will be hard to come up with a title for yourself, so focus on your skills and recent experience.
4. Be clear about your short-term and long-term career goals
It is very important for entry level job seekers to know the field and industry they want to get into. A good formula for articulating one’s career goals is by stating the position you are looking for, your skills, and qualities you look for in a company. An example would be:
“I want to obtain a marketing coordinator position where I can utilize my creativity and communication skills in a growing company that offers performance-based advancement.”
5. Don’t ask for a job, they’ll ask you
The ultimate goal of the job networking event for a recent college graduate may be to get a job, but they should never flat-out ask someone they just met for one. Instead, asking questions about the employer, showing knowledge about the industry and company, and talking about personal skills and qualifications will yield the best results. After this is done, a good way to inquire about jobs is to ask for advice on how to break into the industry. Most people will be kind enough to give the job seeker some insightful advice. Lastly, it is absolutely crucial to ask for referrals as well. If the company representative likes you, they may even suggest that they act as your referral for that particular company.
6. Networking is a two-way street – show how you can help
Job seekers who research prospective companies not only find out about company weaknesses but also discover what opportunities they are failing to realize. If a company is not heavily involved with social media, needs a fresh idea to reach a new target market, or has other problems, you should think of some solutions to offer during the networking event. Giving free advice to employers not only solidifies your image as a strong job applicant, but it makes you look less like someone who is just out to get a job without bothering to help out others in return.