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For Graduates: Understanding Networking

May 23, 2011

colleen For Graduates: Understanding Networking

Colleen Sabatino

This guest post is part of a series for new grads, written by the career experts at our sister company, CareerBeam.  Read on for tips about networking from Colleen Sabatino, CareerBeam founder and Nationally Certified Career Counselor.

While networking is frequently discussed as the most important career search strategy, it is not clearly understood by the majority of recent graduates. So to help you get the process right from the start, here is the easiest way to know if you have engaged in networking or simply had a conversation with someone: Networking has occurred if at the end of the conversation, you have obtained at least one of the following three pieces of information:

  • The name of a person you can contact who is in a similar or better position to help you, than the person with whom you just spoke.
  • The name of a company you had not thought of previously that fits your target company profile. It’s a bonus is if the company is currently looking for someone with your qualifications.
  • Specific information about the industry, company, career, etc., that helps you better focus your search.

The trick is to ensure that your networking is not construed as asking for help.

Networking may seem straightforward, but the trick is to ensure that your networking is not construed as asking for help. If you go around asking everyone to help you (especially to help you get a job), you run the risk of being seen as someone who is desperate and expecting others to take responsibility for your job search.

Instead, you want to position your questions and tone in a manner that shows you are simply doing research and seeking information, not fishing for job offers. While the most direct way to get the name of someone to talk to about a job is to ask, “Whom should I talk to about securing a job?” the problem with being this straightforward is that it sounds like you are expecting this person to know who might hire you. Obviously, no one can actually get you a job and making someone feel as if it is his or her obligation or responsibility to do so will make the person feel uncomfortable.

A better approach to obtain this information is to ask, “Who is someone you really admire or respect in the profession/industry?” The answer to this question gives you a name just as the first question would, but it also gives you the ability to compliment the new contact when you explain how their name came up. Even more compelling, it gives you the name of someone who is more likely to be willing to help you since you’ve identified and praised them as an effective up-and-comer in the industry. Since you’ve told them that they are seen by their peers as powerful people, they’ll naturally want to live up to that expectation and will likely go out of their way to help you.

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