Don’t know anybody who works in your industry? Then get schmoozing. And no, it isn’t just for posh kids — anyone can build a network, from scratch.
Here are three things every graduate should know about networking:
1) Anyone can do it. Graduates who grumble that “It’s all about who you know, not what you know” are missing the point. Yes, the posho boarding school kids are coached in schmoozing from birth – and Daddy’s golfing buddies will doubtless prove very useful to little Tarquin and Jemima. But the truth is that anyone – from any background – can build a network from scratch. And it isn’t rocket science. You can do this.
2) It’s way less cringey that you think. The word ‘networking’ makes most graduates shudder. You think of the pushy desperado job-seeker at some horrific industry ‘do’, wearing a cheap suit and naff name badge, sipping warm white wine and thrusting business cards into the hand of anyone who catches their eye. It’s desperate, tragic and so not you. Right? Wrong. Networking has changed. Today, it’s simple: find people who work in your field – and be polite, interested and charming. That’s it. You can do this online or in person.
3) If you aren’t networking, you’re missing out on opportunities that are going to people who are. Collecting a group of people who work in your industry who think you’re good is about the smartest thing you can do to improve your changes of landing a job. Networking is the best way to hear about ‘hidden’ (unadvertised) jobs – and a personal recommendation can push your CV to the top of the pile.
BUILD YOUR NETWORK IN 10 EASY STEPS (whether or not you know anyone already)
Already know people in your industry?
1) Make a list of all their names and get hold of their email addresses. Then make a list of other people who might know people who work in the industry you’re interested in. Contact them to see if they do – and get their email addresses.
Don’t know anybody in your industry?
1) Make a list of anybody you know who might know people in your industry. Put a shout-out on Facebook or find other ways to contact well-connected friends and family.
* Still got nothing? Don’t panic! Just skip this bit and scroll down to the next page.
2) Make contact. Craft a charming email introducing yourself (clarifying the personal link between you and them), attaching your CV and asking so politely for half an hour of their time when you could come and have a chat with them. Make it clear that this can be any time that’s convenient for them (If they’re super-busy, ask them to suggest a time when you could give them a ring instead).
3) Turn up for the meeting. Don’t be late, look smart(ish) and bring your CV and a pen and paper to jot down any names, websites and organisations they mention, to look up later.
4) Ask smart questions. This is precious time – so don’t ask them to explain how their industry works. You can research that yourself. Instead, tell them how you’ve been job-hunting so far and what results you’ve had – then ask how they would progress if they were you? Have they heard of anybody who might be looking to hire someone like you? And what sort of experience might be valuable for you to get in the meantime?
5) Watch your attitude. No-one wants to hear you whinge about how hard it is to get into their industry. Likewise, resist the urge to slag off your current employer or places you’ve already done work experience – no matter how evil the people were. You want to look positive and up-beat, not bitter and bitchy. (And you never know who their friends are).
6) Don’t ask them directly for a job. It’s too full-on and puts them on the spot. Instead, ask if they have any other friends in the industry who you could email or speak to – even about work experience or temp work in the industry. Ask them to let you know if they hear of any jobs you might apply for – and if they can forward any job ads that come their way.
7) Be grateful. Don’t worry about overdoing it – you can’t say thank you enough, especially if your personal link to them is a bit tenuous. They’ve done you a big favour – so tell them how much you appreciate their time because you know they’re busy.
8 ) Empty your brain. Straight after the meeting, write down everything you can remember about the conversation while it’s fresh in your mind. Email them within 12 hours to thank them again for the time and say you will keep them posted with how you’re getting on.
9) Keep in touch. Contacts need to be kept ‘warm’, so drop them regular emails updating them on your progress, telling them exactly how their advice has helped you. If they gave you the names of any of their own contacts, let them know when you meet those people – and how the meeting went.
10) But don’t be annoying. People are busy – and it’s not their responsibility to find you a job. Don’t be surprised if your contacts don’t respond to your updates. It doesn’t mean they aren’t reading them – and just seeing your name in their inbox will remind them you exist. If a specific situation arises and you’d like their advice, do so tentatively – but don’t pester them with constant questions. They’ve given you their time and advice, now the rest is up to you.