As you start your career search you hear it over and over again:
It’s all about networking!
But, when you’re new to the game, networking seems daunting and a just a little bit impossible. When I graduated I thought networking meant going to paid events where you and hundreds of other twenty-somethings jostle around a room with a few recruiters or companies and try to make as many quick connections as possible only to leave with a feeling of exhausted frenzy.
Then I learned that networking doesn’t need to be daunting and it’s something you can (and should continue to) do at any stage in your career.
Start Your Own Club or Group
Look around to see if people are already meeting up around one your interests (you might find something like MHacks– the largest student hackathon in the Midwest). If you don’t find something to join, start a club or group for people with similar interests to share ideas and resources. Set up meetings on a regular basis, in a convenient location. If you can’t meet in person, you could even set up a Google Hangout!
Look for Individuals, not Opportunities
Opportunities are attached to people. Identify the people in your network who always seem to have their hands in interesting pots– like other students on Seelio, professors, or thought leaders on Twitter. Try to understand what makes them hubs of opportunity and resolve to meet and develop bonds with more people with these characteristics.
Create an “Intriguing People” Fund
Automatically funnel a certain percentage of your budget into a bucket that pays for coffees, lunches, and the occasional bus or plane ticket to meet new people and build up existing relationships. Pick a person that you want to get to know better, and for several months, invest time and energy into building the relationship via shared knowledge and offers to help.
Connect the Dots in Your Network
Tap into your school’s alumni network to find great connections. When you can, pair individuals together who have similar interests, and make introductions via e-mail. You may not benefit immediately, and that’s okay. Then, think about a challenge you are dealing with and ask an existing connection for an introduction to someone who could help. Jump-start the process by offering a small gift – such as a relevant article – to the person you want to meet.
Do the Job Search Test
If you needed to find a job today, who are the ten people you’d e-mail for advice on what to do next? Reach out to them now, when you don’t need anything specifically. Have lunch, coffee, or even a phone call. You never know what gold nuggets might come out of an informal conversation without an urgent agenda. It’s okay to reach out when you need something too– just remember to stay in touch after you land the new gig!