Fear Factor: Networking Tools that Really Aren't Scary
Just graduated? You're probably overwhelmed by career advice. But according to Calling All Grads! Turn a Degree into a Job, by Marco Buscaglia, knowledge is power—and he's not just talking about your course work.
Certain parts of searching for a job, like reaching out to strangers, or milling about with hundreds of other people at career fairs, can be intimidating. But if you know how to prepare for them, certain job-seeking tasks may be less daunting than you thought—and more effective, too.
1. Job Fairs
You'll get the biggest bang for your research buck at job fairs, where a little knowledge about the company is a great way to stand out.
Where to start? Writes Buscaglia, "Surfing a few companies‘ websites prior to the big day will undoubtedly pay off when you‘re face to face with a recruiter." That's likely where you'll find both most of your need to knows, plus links to up-to-the-minute social media accounts and news.
Know your p's and q's is also a great way to break the ice! If you're shy about talking to representative, have a few mental notes to pull from (like a press release you read, or a sector of their business you're most interested in) that you can ask about. It's no secret that people love to talk about themselves, so being inquisitive is an easy and likeable way to get a conversation rolling.
Once you've started talking, let your knowledge of and enthusiasm for that company (as opposed to just any job) shine through. Buscaglia says it's the most effective way to stand out from the pack at a fair.
Okay, so the concept of recruiters scouting your Facebook page is a little creepy, but get used to the idea, and post accordingly. According to Buscaglia, "…social media use is up 10 percent from last year, reflecting a top recruiting strategy for 36 percent of employers."
Not to fear, though, because recruiters want to like you. Writes Buscaglia, "One thing that‘s not always obvious to recent graduates is that they don‘t have to go through the job search alone. Remember, recruiters and human resource professionals need people like you. They‘re entrusted to hire the right personnel at the right time, and the good ones are always on the lookout for new talent."
So how to get noticed by them? For social media connections, you can start by following some of your favorite companies online, asking smart questions in public groups or forums, and asking mutual friends of employees to make introductions. And get on Twitter! Writes Buscaglia, "A graduate should follow the companies that he or she would like to work for, because companies often use Twitter to mention job opportunities. Sometimes those jobs will be filled within a day or a week."
Still in school? It's not too late to take advantage of clubs and teams (and their Facebook pages!). The book says they're "one of the best ways to demonstrate leadership skills," which recruiters love. It's also a great way to boost your network of contacts (teammates!) for after graduation.
3. Friends of Friends
If you've exhausted your inner circle of contacts, it may be time to look further. LinkedIn is a great tool for finding mutual friends of people you'd like to target. It can be nerve wracking to cold-email someone, but leveraging a familiar name (Hi! I noticed we're both friends of Sue…) can get you in the door for at least an informational interview.
Another option: target friends of friends who are your peers. A job seeker in Buscaglia's book had a particularly brilliant idea: she found profiles of mutual friends who might already be working in her field and invited them to a group she created for networking.
Tough racket getting them to join? Hardly! As the job seeker reports, "It was an easy sell, even for the teachers who were working. They know that the newest teachers are always the first to get laid off, so they were pretty up front about the need to stay connected."
If you focus on mutual benefits (as opposed to begging everyone you're marginally connected with for work), you'll likely up your batting average for reaching out. And when you're offering something, it feels much less scary than asking.
More from Calling All Grads! to come!
--Cathy Vandewater, Vault.com
Marco Buscaglia has worked as a reporter, producer, editor and college press service manager, and his stories have appeared in Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and Miami Herald.
His book Calling All Grads! is a comprehensive guide to help recent college graduates find jobs and continue to be successful after they’ve kick started their careers.