The Power of Networking for the 2021 Graduate

Job boards, career websites, and daily hiring alerts sent directly to your inbox make it easy to stay busy looking for your next job.  However, don’t mistake busyness for efficiency.  If you are a 2021 graduate with little or no experience in your field, throwing your resume into the hat for every job that looks decent can leave you frustrated and empty-handed.

What if we told you there’s another way?

The well-known adage that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” has never been truer in today’s business world.  Everyone you know should know you are looking for a job. Expanding your professional network and connecting with people on a similar career path will undoubtedly lead to more opportunities, jobs, and career growth.  Some studies have shown nearly 80% of jobs are filled by networking.  Yet somehow, this powerful tool has been set aside for the convenience of a simple internet search.  Sure, networking can sometimes feel uncomfortable and draining, but the trick is to find a strategy and rhythm that works for you and your lifestyle.  So, where do you begin?

Consider Your Personal Connections

Even if you’re a college student entering the workforce for the first time, you still have an inherent network.  You might be surprised if you dig deep and think about who you know.  It is quite possible that your parents have a friend who works in your desired field.  Or perhaps you have a relative or friend’s relative on a similar path.  Don’t forget the teachers and professors who have guided you on your journey.  These people are your network, but that’s not where it stops.  Your network also has a network.  One way to explore this is to create a profile on LinkedIn.  By doing so, you will have a tangible list of connections, and you will see how vast your network really is.  While you’re there, share a post about your qualifications and the career you are looking for.  Better yet, ask someone you know who has a wide-reaching network to post on your behalf. You can also join groups within your life circle like church organizations, industry associations, sororities/fraternities, or places where you have volunteered will also further your network.

 

Build Your Alumni Network

If your college has a career center, you likely have access to a directory of compatible alumni that would love the opportunity to mentor you.  Are you a college athlete?  If so, determine whether there are former athletes in your sport who are working in the field or at the company you are curious about.  Your alumni network is an excellent place to begin growing your professional network.  Saying “yes” to the same college creates a direct connection and a sense of solidarity.  Start by setting up informational interviews with select alumni, whether virtual or in-person.  These interviews will provide you with the realities of working in a particular industry or position you cannot always get online.  Subsequently, you’ll likely get advice on your career objectives and maybe even land an internship or job.

Another way to connect with alumni is through Linkedin.  Find groups in which your alma mater participates, and then choose the ones that match your professional goals or interests.  If you want to reach out directly to a person, position yourself as someone eager to learn and be mentored, rather than as someone who simply needs a job.  By thinking of these interactions as conversations, you can take the pressure off and be more freely, yourself.

There’s good news for the 2021 graduate.

According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employees, there are estimated to be 7.2% more school graduates hired by employers in 2021 than the previous year.  At the same time, some suggest that up to 70% of job openings are not posted on public job boards.  What does this mean for the college grad?  It means the jobs are there, you just have to find another way in the door.  Start making those connections today.

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