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Congrats, You’re a Graduate. Now Get Networking!
Congrats! You’ve done the hard work, you’ve stuck it out and now you’re a college graduate. You’ve been thinking of this event for 4 (or more) years. Next comes the perfect job. The one you see your friends getting. The one your parent’s friends brag about. The one that your grandparents keep asking about. Whether you’ve found the perfect job or not, it’s important to remember that this will not (most likely) be your only job.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to learn how to network and be comfortable with it. Now I’m not saying to jump into the deep end. You don’t need to start big and show up at a conference of 500 with cards in hand. Start with the people you know. Networking can take time, but the payoffs are worth the investment.
Networking: Getting to Know Your Contact’s Contacts
Back in the day, I worked with a large organization and led their internship program. I would tell my summer interns that networking is about the people you know and the people they know. You ask, how does this work? First, have an elevator speech.
Your Elevator Speech
Think of the 3 to 5 things you want in a job. Travel, specific city, industry, small, large, non-profit, government, casual, or suits. Do you want to work with people or alone? Prefer to be outside or inside? What kind of projects do you want to tackle? Make sure you have a clear vision, but keep in mind you most likely won’t have it all. Practice your elevator speech over and over until you can say it in your sleep. The more you practice, the more you will be comfortable with it, which means the more confident you will sound!
Now, Share Your Story
Generally speaking, people love helping people. One of my favorite things is connecting great people. And sometimes that can be through an email or LinkedIn. When someone asks you what are you doing or what you want to do, TELL THEM. Be ready to share your story with neighbors at the company picnic, friends, parents at a wedding, people at church — essentially everyone you meet. People know people.
Important: Don’t forget, your goal is to get a face-to-face conversation with the person who is most likely to provide you with the information you desire. Reach out to that person and arrange a meeting over coffee or tea. And, don’t forget to send him or her (and the referring contact) a thank you note after the meeting!
Networking is all about connecting. The more you connect, the more you’ll see how valuable it can be to yourself and others.
The Rewards of Networking
So you say, “But I love my job, I don’t need to network.” Networking should be something you not only do when you are looking for a job, but to keep connected with people in and out of your industry. Network with others to learn about best practices, discover new ideas, or to gain company or industry visibility.
I’ve met some great people through networking. It can be a very rewarding, two-way conversation where you learn about others and share your story. You’ll be surprised where a cup of coffee (or tea for me) can take you.
Jennifer Stern serves as HR Director for The Fahrenheit Group. She has over 20 years of HR experience and is a proven leader, skilled at developing collaborative working relationships, including cross-functional teams within an organization. She is a results-oriented, highly-motivated HR professional with associate relations, generalist, recruiting, and management experience.