Networking Know-How for New Grads
by Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon
Networking know-how is by far the greatest skill you can learn as you enter today’s job market. Do you realize that the length of your job search is directly related to the strength of your network as you begin to job hunt? Investing time and energy in building your circle of contacts will bring you current information on jobs and trends in your field, resources and services you need to conduct your job search, and the support of colleagues when the going gets rough.To build your network from scratch, try these ideas.
Get a “career card.”
If you’re just entering the job market and don’t have a business card, get a “career card” or “networking card.” Naturally, it will give your name, address, and phone number. In addition, you may want to use a few, well-chosen words or phrases that describe what you do. Jan, with a degree in computer design, has a card that says, “Graphic design for newsletters, brochures, annual reports.” Barbara’s card has the words “chemical engineer” and information about how to reach her. Fred’s card has his name, address, and phone number on one side and on the other side the words “Technical Writer – combining in-depth computer knowledge and writing expertise.”
Plug into your parents’ network. When Traci graduated, her mother, Lynda, set up a series of lunch meetings with her networking contacts. That way, Traci, coached by her mother, was able to “plug in” to the extensive network Lynda had developed through the years.
Begin to build your network by contacting people who know you.
Talk with your professors, alumni of your school, former members of the marching band or sports team you’ve been involved with, fraternity or sorority alumni, your pastor or rabbi, church members, neighbors, relatives, family friends, bosses from summer or part-time jobs, your parents and their friends, and your friends’ parents and their friends. Ask everyone you know for two things: advice on how to find the job you want and names of people they know whom you should contact. Ask your contacts to call those people on your behalf. That way, you’ll never have to make a “cold call” or send a resume to someone who has never heard of you.
Link up with the pros.
While you’re still in school, join the student chapter of the professional organization in your field. If there is no student chapter, visit and eventually join the professional association. Take an active role to demonstrate your expertise. Take advantage of the organization’s job bank if they have one. Get the membership directory and look for people who have the kind of job you’re looking for or work at organizations that appeal to you. Seek them out.
Lila talked with the president of the association she visited and asked if she could send him her resume. He said, “Sure,” and gave her his card. A couple of days later, he received a well-written cover letter, her resume, and a stamped, oversized postcard addressed to Lila. In her cover letter, she asked him to return the postcard with his feedback on her resume. That made it very easy for him to respond to her. After she received the card, she called him to thank him for his suggestions. By that time, he’d developed a great deal of confidence in her abilities and had thought of a couple of people for her to contact. Lila skillfully initiated a series of contacts, designed to build a relationship, with a key person who could help her find a job.
Emphasize your marketable skills.
Make sure your conversations with contacts focus on your job skills, not the courses you took in college. For example, rather than talking about majoring in English, get comfortable with talking about your ability to write clearly or on the columns you wrote for the college newspaper.
Joy, a new graduate with a degree in journalism, volunteered to produce a brochure for her church. A church member, who works for a large foundation, saw the brochure, was impressed, and called Joy about a job opening he had.
Get good at names.
Develop your ability to remember other people’s names and – – equally important – – learn how to teach your name to other people. The next time you’re at a networking event, watch people introduce themselves. Almost everyone zips through the exchange in less than six seconds!
You can do a lot in six seconds. Send a fax. Blow out the candles on your birthday cake. Buy a lottery ticket. But one thing you can’t do in six seconds is teach someone your name and learn hers.
So slow down. Linger longer. Don’t sabotage your greetings by saying to yourself, “I never can remember names.” Instead, set a goal. Say, “I’m going to learn the names of five people I meet today.”
To learn someone’s name,
Repeat it. If the other person says her name first, repeat her first name in your greeting. Say “Hi, Theresa. It’s good to meet you.”
Ask about it or comment on it. You might ask about the spelling: “Do you spell your name with an “h”?
Ask separately for the last name. Say, “Tell me your last name again.” To teach your name,
Give your first name twice. Say, “I’m Linda. Linda Torvette.”
Say both your names clearly and distinctly. Don’t run them together. Provide a way for people to remember your name. Say, “It’s like Corvette but with a “T.”
Explain what kind of job you’re looking for.
People will ask you, “What do you want to do?” How you answer that question determines whether you’ll instantly start an interesting, productive conversation or one that just limps along.
Don’t say, “I’ll do anything.” Don’t tell the title you’re aiming for. Don’t tell your major (“I’m a marketing communications major.”) Don’t say your industry (“I’m looking for something in healthcare.”) Don’t limit your occupation (“I’m looking for a position in employee communications.”)
what you want someone to remember about you and
a quick example that brings your job hunt to life.
Say, “I’ve just designed a marketing program for a law firm as a final project in one of my classes. As part of my research, I interviewed several marketing directors. I’d be very interested in any job that involved publicity for an organization.”
Be prepared to be spontaneous. Decide before you go to any event what you have to give, conversationally speaking – – your enthusiasms, resources, expertise, tips, shortcuts. Then listen generously. Be alert for needs so you can offer an idea, an introduction, a referral.
Don’t assume that because you are just graduating, you have nothing to give. Be ready to help others by providing a copy of an article you have read or the name of a new book on graphic design.
Also, be prepared to ask about things you want to find, learn, or connect with. When someone says, “What’s new?” say, “I’ve spent a lot of time researching various organizations on the Internet. Do you know anybody who designs home pages?”
Networking in a Nutshell.
Networks are created conversation by conversation, exchange by exchange. Think of networking as teaching people who you are and providing information about your character and competence. Tell short stories that dramatize your skills and interests. Don’t forget that networking must be mutually beneficial. So, spend a lot of time and energy learning about your conversation partner. To gain insight into someone else’s business, ask, “What have you been doing today?” That question is almost guaranteed to elicit a specific example that will help you understand your partner’s business.
When you build relationships with the future in mind, you’ll see your networking efforts pay off with great career opportunities.
Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon are principals of Contacts Count, a nationwide consulting and training firm that specializes in business and professional networking, and career development. They are co-authors of six books. The most recent is Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-How for Business and Career Success (2007, AMACOM). Fortune 500 companies license their training programs. Visit them at www.ContactsCount.com and www.FireProofYourCareer.com
Want to learn more about networking at its best?
Find these resources at www.ContactsCount.com
- Networking Know-How: The Contacts Count System for Savvy Professionals and Smart Companies An 80-minute “live” audio CD workshop that reveals the rules and tools of networking, featuring Lynne Waymon, nationally known expert.
- Make Your Contacts Count by Anne Baber & Lynne Waymon (AMACOM, 2nd edition, New York) The best step-by-step book on how to create, cultivate, and capitalize on networking relationships and opportunities.
- Activity Guides (one for corporations, one for associations, & one for alumni groups), 10 downloadable icebreakers to get people talking & connecting.
- Contacts Count e-mail newsletter Every 4 weeks, short, practical, innovative tips, examples, & stories highlight networking skills and strategies. The best way to stay in touch!
Want to know more about Contacts Count?
- The premier consulting and training firm specializing in business networking skills training for more than 20 years
- Developed “The 8 Networking Competencies©”
- Extensive client list: corporations, associations, government agencies, universities, professional service firms, and entrepreneurs
Refer us to people who manage these kinds of programs:
- Employee Development
- Career Development
- Business Development
- Employee Resource Groups
- Meetings and Retreats
- National, Regional, State, and Local Meetings