October 1, 2016

College, Connections, Career!

Networking tips to help college grads land their first job.

familyCollege graduation season is coming, launching a new crop of young adults seeking their first “real” job. But, today’s high unemployment rates make that search a daunting challenge.

There is both good and bad news for recent grads looking for work, says Maribeth Kuzmeski, author of “The Connectors: How the World’s Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life” (theconnectorsbook.com).

The good news: They’re more adept than their older counterparts at using the internet and social media to find job opportunities. The bad news: They lack the networking and communication skills that older job seekers have honed over the years.

Kuzmeski helps clients develop communication and relationship skills and offers advice for how new grads can network their way to a great new job.

Rejuvenate your résumé. Consider including some eye-catching, informative headlines, and make the most of every college experience by including information on internships, relevant class assignments, and club leadership positions. “Make sure your résumé is something an employer would want to read,” she says.

Use social media. According to a 2012 Social Job Seeker Survey by Jobvite.com, 88 percent of job seekers have at least one social networking profile, and 44 percent have them on all three: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Get face-to-face with potential employers! At a time when so much of the pre-hiring process is online, it is essential that you find a way to communicate with potential employers face-to-face. Drop off a follow-up note or a résumé in person, or stop by an interviewer’s office the next day with an interesting article. “Establishing this face time is sure to set you apart from your competition,” Kuzmeski says.

Make an impact by using video. Use a video to get an interview or as a follow-up. Carefully script and record a message (1 to 2 minutes) using a smart phone camera or webcam. Post it on YouTube and include the link when emailing a résumé or a post-interview thank-you note. Some extra tips: 1. Introduce yourself, and identify the job you want to be interviewed for. 2. Tell three things about your background that might tempt the employer to interview you. 3. Thank them for watching, and ask for the interview! 4. Focus on professionalism—not entertainment. Make sure both you and your background appear professional.

Focus on connectors. The goal of networking is to build mutually beneficial relationships with people who might never be able to give you a job, but may know someone who can. List the contacts who are the most important or closest to you. Don’t rule out family members, friends and neighbors that may be the most willing to help. Of those contacts, highlight those who know the people you want to know. “By connecting with other great connectors, you are able to widen your reach,” Kuzmeski says.

Let others do the talking. Don’t indulge in nervous chatter. Be prepared to listen and arm yourself with a (mental) list of questions to help you get conversations going. For example, you might ask, “What’s the best thing that happened to your business this year?” or “What’s one thing you’ve done that has really changed your career?”

Pitch yourself in 15 seconds. No one (except your mom!) wants to hear a long list of your accomplishments. Instead, prepare a short pitch that hits your high points and top skills. Include what’s unique about what you’ve done and what will help you stand out from other job seekers.

Get involved in professional groups. Attend trade shows and seminars and join organizations connected to the profession you want to enter. Take hard copies of your résumé to events. The more people within your profession that know you, the better.

Volunteer. If you want a marketing job, volunteer to work with the PR director at a nonprofit, or if accounting is your thing, volunteer your financial expertise. Volunteering allows you to learn from professionals and show potential employers that you’re a motivated worker.

Be a mover and shaker. Force yourself outside your comfort zone. Don’t just hang out with the people you already know; introduce yourself to new people and find out as much as you can about them. The more you move around, the more connections you will make.

Always network. Capitalize on all the connections you make in everyday life—network on airplanes, at social gatherings, and in the grocery store line.

Pick up the phone. While communicating by email may be your preferred method, a good rule is to match whatever method of communication your potential connection is using. Ask interviewers if it is okay to call with questions after the interview. You might also call after-hours to leave a thank-you voicemail—a nice way to let employers hear your enthusiasm without taking up too much time.

“By focusing on networking, you open yourself up to many more opportunities than just the ones you see on job boards or at job fairs,” says Kuzmeski. Every time you make a new connection, you get that much closer to getting your dream job.”

Linda Wacyk is a regular Country Lines freelance writer, educator, grandmother and content empty-nester.