Don’t Let Anxiety Hold You Back: A Grad’s Networking Guide

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Today’s job market is fierce.

With baby boomers retiring later and jobs becoming increasingly scarce, competition to secure your first job out of school is also rising.

You’ve probably heard that new grads are over-educated – and under-employed.

Don’t let the bad news slow you down on the road to finding your dream job.

Networking is a key way to stand out and break in to your industry. It might seem terrifying at first, but if you follow these 5 guidelines, you’ll be a lot closer to your first ‘grown-up’ job in no time.

1. Leave pride at the door

The simple truth: it’s often who you know that lands you the interview.

Time and again, my peers have said they want to make it on their own without a hand up. They don’t want to use their connections, because they want to feel like they “earned” their job title.

This is noble thinking – but it’s also foolish and misguided.

Networking is not about asking for a free job, but rather creating relationships with people in your industry. It’s a skill that matters just as much as your resume and past work experience, since it can open so many doors.

Start reaching out now! There are new connections to be forged all around you. Ask your old professors, family friends, even your friends’ parents, to meet up and chat over coffee.

2. Take opportunities

You’ve just graduated.

Maybe you’re staying in your university town, maybe you’ve moved back home, or maybe you’ve moved to a new city altogether.

Wherever you’ve decided to go – get out there! Attend networking events, alumni functions, meetups, your local for a pint, or even join an intramural sports team. Take your friends and peers up on the invites to a lecture series or coffee shop concert.

3. It’s not about you…at first

People love to talk about themselves!

Capitalize on this.

As you start your career, look to connect with people who have excelled in their sector.

Once you’ve identified who you want to talk to, make sure you phrase your “ask” right.

Make it about them. Keep it short and sweet.

Explain that you’re looking to get into their industry and want to learn how they’ve become leaders in their field. Everyone wants to impart their wisdom and is flattered when you see them as a mentor.

4. Do what you say you’re going to do

This might seem like common sense, but once your new contact agrees to meet up for coffee or review your resume, make sure you see it through.

While job-hunting as a recent grad, I reached out to a leader in the food security sector and connected for a coffee. I asked my new connection if she would be willing to review my resume.

She was shocked when I sent along my resume the next day – apparently many people ask, but few follow-through.

5. Maintain relationships

Now that you’ve made contact with the movers and shakers in your industry, make sure to keep in touch.

Add your new connections to LinkedIn (make sure that your profile is updated), send them a thank you email, take opportunities to see them at events and follow-up in a month or so for another tea or coffee.

The same goes for your classmates.

While your peers may not be in positions of power yet, many will climb the ladder in a few years. Keep in touch with them on LinkedIn, Facebook, or by catching-up in person.

Maintaining these relationships ensures that when a job does come up, your contact will remember you. Take the opportunity to meet up with them before you apply for the job, gaining insight to the posting that others can’t.

Ask them if you can include their name in your application or if they feel comfortable putting your name forward when you apply.

What’s your top networking tip? Share it in the comments!

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