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Networking essential to post-graduation career searching

Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 10:09

After the last few months of sending out meticulously-crafted resumes and cover letters, I’ve heard nothing.  I haven’t even gotten so much as a, “We’re sorry, but the position has been filled. Thanks for your pathetic attempt.”

That’s a little scary as a fresh junior trying to find that first summer internship, slightly scarier as a senior trying to find one last internship, but absolutely terrifying as a graduating senior that needs a suitable job or society will shun her.

So, I stopped into the Office of Career Development last Friday to ask what my problem was, convinced that my resume had a glaring typo I was missing, or my cover letter made me look too desperate. Then, Laura Dulaney, the career counselor for the School of Business, completely threw me off by saying it was neither. I had to network. I know everyone harps incessantly about “making connections” and staying in touch with former employers, but I never really followed through with it.

For some reason, I’ve deluded myself into thinking that a hiring manager would be tirelessly skimming through stacks and stacks of resumes and when he got to mine, he would at first toss it aside, but then would retrieve it, squint at it momentarily and exclaim, “THIS IS IT! I’VE FOUND HER!”

I am ridiculous. I’m well aware that’s not how it works, but my brain tricks me into believing it.

Think of it this way: Are you more likely to go out with someone you talked to once or twice in a class, or someone that Facebook messages you and tells you how awesome he is and repeatedly lists all the reasons you should be into him? See, it makes so much sense!

I’m the furthest possible thing from a math major, but the following is the equation of what it takes to acquire a job after graduation = .20(grades & school work) + .20(extracurricular experience, internships, etc.) + .55(making & keeping connections) + .5(being a little creepy).

I’m sure no one actually likes the process of sorting through page after page of “I’m so qualified for this position that I should probably just have yours instead.” It doesn’t matter how great your application package is. You could fit the job description to a T, but someone’s brother’s fiancée’s hairdresser is getting that job.

Until now, I had completely overlooked the magical tool that is LinkedIn. And this is where it comes into play. Let’s say you want to work in New York, but you don’t know anyone in New York. Here’s what you need to do.

Start by jazzing up your material. Put together a killer display of your skills and capabilities. The whole works: resume, cover letter, business cards, portfolio, and LinkedIn profile. They should all be consistent and consistently excellent.

Stalk people. That’s what Facebook is training us for. All those hours spent trying to find that dreamy Starbucks barista who makes the no-whip, nonfat mocha of your wildest fantasies are actually going to be put to good use. Through your connections, find the people with your dream jobs and go to them.

Connect. All it takes is a five-minute email: “Hi, I used to intern with your connection and I’m interested in getting into the publishing industry.” Schmooze a little. Tell them how great their work is (and mean it.) And ask if they could possibly take a few minutes from their busy, hectic schedules for a quick informational interview. You have absolutely nothing to lose.

Worst case scenario: They delete it. Best case: They share their words of wisdom, link you to two more people they know, and most importantly, they have seen your name. You are no longer just a sheet or two of paper. You look familiar for some reason. You stand out. And THAT is what it takes to get in the door. Not necessarily to get the job, that’s where everything else comes in. But you need to have an “in.”

When they get back to you, ask them three questions of your own interest and end with these two: “What else would you do if you were me?” and “Who are two more people you feel comfortable giving my information to, so that I can gain further knowledge about the industry?”

Last night, at a dinner event I was photographing, the girl I sat down next to told me she just got hired at one of my dream jobs. Get ready for it: Because her boyfriend’s sister knew someone at the company and knew she was interested. Case in point, people.

So, go forth jobseekers. Just don’t seek the same jobs I’m seeking, because now you know my secrets.

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