Are you a student or new graduate? There is never a better time to start your networking. The market for jobs and internships is more competitive than ever, and oftentimes it’s who you know, not what you know that can make the difference in landing that dream job.
The first place to start is developing a presence on LinkedIn. There are so many ways you can use this business network. The first way is to establish your business identity by putting up a profile and photo. Make sure the photo is what you’d want a prospective employer to see -- No group shots or cap or gown photos. Keep it professional.
And, even if you don’t have a lot of experience yet, make sure that you make your profile as robust as possible. Think about your role as dorm leader, your volunteer and community service activities, and even your part-time job. Potential employers want to see that you’re reliable and a job can show that. Then, make sure to connect with professors, employers, volunteer coordinators and others who can give you a good recommendation. Those count for a lot, especially when you have little work experience. Use LinkedIn as a place to find influencers in your industry and favorite companies, as well as finding groups to follow.
Then, let everyone know you’re job hunting. It’s advisable to let your parents and professors know, since they might have the inside line on an acquaintance or colleague who knows someone who might be hiring. Be open about the types of companies or work that interest you. You never know who might know someone who could be a beneficial contact.
Also, even though you might still be in school or just recently graduated, make sure to always put your best foot forward. That means getting rid of the silly message on your voicemail, and remembering that potential employers don’t want to see your “text language,” even in a text, but surely not in an email or other professional correspondence.
On that note, make sure you plug your name into the common search engines and make sure that the search results are ones that put you in a positive light. If you have comments on a blog that you’d like to not show up, it can take some time to email the site moderator but it is always worth it! You want all your results on Google/ Bing/ Yahoo to be positive ones. Ideally, the first thing that will show up is your LinkedIn account, often followed by links to stories on your school website or groups to which you belong.
As either a student or new graduate, make sure to take advantage of what the campus alumni office has to offer. Oftentimes they’ll maintain lists of other graduates who might be in a position to hire you – or at least provide an informational interview. Having that school connection in common can be a fantastic door opener.
Informational interviews can be invaluable in starting your networking journey. Accept any that you are offered, even if the position or company doesn’t at first blush seem to be a good fit. With every person you talk to, you can ask them to introduce you to someone else who might be a better fit. It’s about getting your foot in the door and meeting as many people as possible.
And finally, always remember your manners. It goes without saying that etiquette and appreciation are twin keys to success in the working world – and in life.
Networking is a lifelong habit that will further your career in ways you can never imagine. It’s never too early to get a great start!