A Grad’s Most Valuable Resource—A Viable Network

This article was written by Crystal Washington, author of The Social Media WHY, on behalf of the Happy Grad Project. Blame it on the economy, universities, parents, or Millennials themselves—more and more college graduates are “graduating” to unemployment and underemployment. While the numbers are at record highs, the issue itself is not new. Every past graduating class contains superstar students who land their dream jobs, while others find themselves grasping at straws. Related: How To Leverage Your Alumni Network To Get A Job Interestingly enough, the “successful ones” are not always those with the highest grades or stellar performance. What set’s these students apart?

Why Are Some Students Hired While Others Are Not?

I noticed an interesting trend during my own sophomore year in college. It appeared that the most outgoing seniors who had relationships with professors landed the best jobs after graduation. However, when I began asking the recently employed grads for their secrets, I quickly discovered that two major forces were at work: nepotism and cronyism! They already had connections to their employers either through family or acquaintances. Some of these acquaintances were social friends, but many were their professors, internship coordinators, or past employers who were either able to hire them directly or connect them with a hiring manager at their desired company. Not every student has the ability to leverage powerful family members to gain employment. However, all students are afforded the opportunity to start building relationships while they are in school, and it is never too early!

Get Started Building Relationships

Having the proper skills and training for a position is only a fraction of the success equation. You may be majoring in a field of study that has an overabundance of qualified graduates each year. Start building your network now through establishing strong rapport with your professors—they have industry contacts, internships—formal and informal, part-time work in your field and volunteering in professional organizations.

Steps To Building A Powerful Network

1. Add value first

To build rapport with a professor, add value by being a high-achieving student with a reputation for turning in quality work and taking a genuine interest in class. If possible, obtain a part-time job in your field or participate in internships. Exceed the expectations of your job description and build a reputation as a team player. When volunteering within professional industry associations, show up on time, excited, and perform at a top level.

2. Obtain contact information

Request the business cards of your desired connections or record their information for step #3.

3. Send thank you notes

After adding value, always mail hand-written notes or letters to thank your desired connections for their time, insight, or the opportunity to serve. Professionals receive so few hand-written notes that you will stand out.

4. If possible, connect on LinkedIn

This may not be an option with professors. First, seek to connect with your new contacts on LinkedIn. If locate them, send a quick customized note along with the connection request. Try reiterating some of the points you made in your thank-you note and let them know that you’re interested in connecting. Use the LinkedIn Contacts feature (contacts.linkedin.com) to add notes about the person and set reminders to follow up with them every few months with updates about your progress in school, articles that may be of interest to them, and so on.

5. Use a relationship management system to stay connected

If you find that many of your contacts are not on LinkedIn, it may be easier to use a service like Contactually to enter all of your contacts in one place and create notes about them and set reminders to follow up to keep the connection hot. Remember to notify your connections a few months before you intend to begin your job search, asking them for insight, letters or recommendation, or introductions. It’s never too early to start building your professional network!

Download Your FREE E-Book!

Graduating? Know someone who is? As a perk of the Happy Grad Project, we're offering a FREE download of our e-book, "The Recent Grad's Guide To Getting A Job." This e-book is JAM-PACKED with tips from experts and recruiters, videos, and additional help. Don't put off your job search any longer - Download our e-book today and get started!   Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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