The job market is on fire, but new grads still need to network. here’s how

“It doesn’t matter if the market isn’t really good or hot, people still need to network because that’s how you get into whatever job you choose,” said Beth Hendler-Grunt, president of Next Great. Step. “In general, most kids come out of college without understanding what networking really means.”

But networking can be daunting for even the most seasoned professionals.

“Networking is not a dirty word,” said Megan Walls, founder of Walls Career Coaching. “It’s really important for job hunting.”

Get your grounding

Before reaching out to people, take the time to figure out what kind of role, business, and industry you’re looking to get into, and take stock of your experience and applicable skills.

This will help you narrow down who to contact and what to refer to during conversations.

Setting mini-goals when it comes to building your network can also help make the process less daunting.

Hendler-Grunt came up with the “10s and 10s rule” to help get started. “Pick 10 companies you’re interested in and 10 people doing the work you want to learn about.”

Which address

Your network is probably bigger than you think, Walls noted.

Reach out to family, friends, professors, former managers and colleagues to ask if they know of any opportunities or people in their networks in the roles and industries that interest you.

Alumni can also be a good addition to your network. Many schools have LinkedIn pages that allow you to search for alumni by title, keyword, or company.

You can also search for employees by title, keyword or school on a company’s LinkedIn page to find someone in a job you’re interested in. Once you’ve identified someone you think would be beneficial to chat with, see if you have any connections in common that might make an introduction easier.

If you don’t have connections, don’t be afraid to reach out and don’t feel pressured to reach the top of the corporate ladder.

“It’s best to try to connect with people who have been in the workforce for less than five years,” said Lesley Mitler, co-founder of Early Stage Careers. “These people are actually closer to the entry-level or internship position to give you more information on what those jobs really are…and can also serve as referral resources.”

How to request an information meeting

Sending an email or LinkedIn message tends to be the easiest way to contact people to set up informational interviews.

Many companies have standard email address formats that can be found online. Connecting on social media can also be an option, but Hendler-Grunt advised to keep it professional.

If you have a connection with a person, mention it during your first contact, whether it is the name of a person you both know, whether you attended the same university or whether you are a member of the same association professional or voluntary organization.

When he reached out without a connection, Mitler suggested saying something like, “I’m studying marketing and communications, and I’m graduating this spring and trying to learn more about what a director assistant account does in advertising and what kind of lead there is. I’d like to talk to you more about your role at XYZ Company.”

“Let them know you have a plan…and respect their time,” she said.

Showing that you’ve done your research also helps.

“People like to know you paid attention to something they did, wrote or said,” Hendler-Grunt said. She suggested saying something like, “I noticed you were in this role, I’m really impressed you started here. Like you, I’m trying to break into this market and would love to hear more about what you’ve been up to and would you be so kind to share some tips with me?”

What to say during the conversation

When someone agrees to talk with you, make the most of that time.

This means making a good impression, asking thoughtful questions and learning about the industry, company or position and advancing your job search.

Questions should focus on the person’s career and company, not information you can easily find on your own. Hendler-Grunt suggested questions such as, “How do you measure success? Or what qualities do you look for in a candidate when hiring?”

Do you have a job offer?  Now is the time to negotiate

The conversation doesn’t usually include asking for a job, but you need to be specific about what help you’re looking for. This could be asking someone in the recruiting department for an introduction, connecting you with someone else in the industry, or keeping an eye out for potential opportunities.

Being specific about your strengths and what you are looking for helps the person know how best to offer help.

For example, if the person asks you about your career aspirations, don’t tell them you’re open to anything. “It’s not helpful,” Hendler-Grunt explained, because it doesn’t help the person find potential job opportunities, referrals, or advice.

“If you said, ‘I have great communication and problem-solving and research skills and I can solve this kind of problem with this experience…and I want to step into this kind of role’, now the nobody knows how to refer you,” Hendler-Grunt said.

To stay in contact

Cultivating relationships is a big part of networking. After the meeting, be sure to send a thank you note and also follow them on LinkedIn.

“You can like or comment on things they post — it’s a sweet way to stay in touch that shows you care about them,” Mitler said.

And once in a while, send a quick note with an update on your job search or a podcast or article that you think they might be interested in.

“You can’t be boring, but check in with us once in a while,” Mitler said. “Try to find reasons to keep in touch with them.”

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