When you’re graduating from college everyone tells you to “network” to find your first job. For many young people networking is a foreign concept. Call the few people you worked for in summer jobs and internships? Write a note to friends of your parents? Sign up for Linkedin?
Yes, these all fall under the networking umbrella, but the most important thing to do is publicize your job search as you meet and talk to people in all aspects of your daily life. Take a look at a great article on this subject called “7 Everyday Places to Start Networking Face-to-Face“.
The article suggests that you strike up a networking conversation with people next to you at coffee shops, gas stations, sporting events, buses (or subways, trains or planes), waiting rooms and grocery stores. (That’s only six places because one of the recommendations, school pick-ups or drop-offs, is for those in another stage of life.)
The easiest way to get a conversation started is to inject some humor into a mundane situation. If you’re waiting in a long line at the Motor Vehicle Department, say to the person next to you “Hope I don’t have to wait this long to find a job”. Or if your doctor is running very late, tell the person reading yet another magazine nearby that “this is one reason I’m not looking for a job in the field of medicine”. Or say to a person working on a laptop, “This wait is making me stir crazy. I should have brought my laptop, too–what kind of work do you do?”
To the list of everyday places in the article, I would add gyms or exercise classes, where you could say, for example, “This workout isn’t as hard as finding a job…” And don’t forget social gatherings where you can easily turn the conversation toward your job search through simple questions like “What kind of work do you do?”
The point is that in this big, interconnected world, you just never know who the person next to you knows. I became a big believer in this theory when I was young and looking for the second job of my career. On a ski trip I started a conversation with a guy sitting next to me on a chairlift. That conversation and his connections led me to a new job and a 300% increase in salary.
So the moral of this story is that you don’t need to make a special effort to attend a full calendar of networking events. (Pick and choose a few like anything sponsored by your college.) And you don’t need to set up a lot of awkward meetings over lunch or coffee (save those meetings for people you know well who can offer valuable “information interviews” that help you understand the ins and outs of specific jobs or industries that interest you).
You just need to network as you live your life. —KAS
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