New Grads: How to Identify Your Existing Network

Posted May 24, 2013

Networking Advice

Just graduated from college and looking for a job? Your search will be a whole heck of lot more productive if you have a strong professional network.

Well, where do you get one of those?

Good news: You already have one, says Lea McLeod of Degrees of Transition, where she helps recent grads launch their careers.

McLeod shares some networking tips and insights for new grads:

How can new grads identify their existing networks?

“New grads are often reluctant to just put themselves out there and approach people they don’t know,” McLeod says. “I try to get them to understand that they already have a rich network from which to draw.”

Your existing network, according to McLeod, includes:

Family Connections: “I mean parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, cousins of cousins, in laws, family of in laws; leave nothing out.”

Social Connections: “Look up those kids you went to high school or grade school with. Connect! Friends of siblings, neighbors, boy or girl scout troop members.”

Academic Connections: “Professors, the career center, fellow students, internship colleagues, summer job contacts, campus job colleagues, club members, project team members.”

Other Connections: “Parents of friends, friends of parents, church/religious community members, volunteer community, neighbors, babysitting clients, high school teachers, coaches, teammates, mentors, even the vet you take your dog to!”

“I challenge new grads to use all these sources, and I bet they will easily have at least a hundred people in their network,” McLeod says.

How can these existing connections help a new grad who is looking for a job?

“I encourage them to think of networking as asking the people they already know to introduce them to people that they want to know. If they focus only on connecting with people they know, they will find their network growing by leaps and bounds with a minimum of effort!”

How can new grads network successfully?

“Do not lead with ‘I'm looking for a job,’ ” McLeod says.  “Instead, your approach should be to design a conversation that focuses on information you would like to gather by asking others to share their experiences and perspectives with you. Never waste anyone's time -- you are more likely to get someone agree to speak with you if you offer them specificity you are looking for in the conversation.”

McLeod offers this example:

I'm working on my job search strategy. My process is to identify 15 to 20 target employers that I believe my skills are a good fit for, and that I can add value to. I'm trying to decide if ACME Chemical should be on that list. I notice in your last job you worked at ACME Chemical. If you would be willing to share 20 minutes of your time, I'd like to ask about your personal observations and experience in these 3 areas: 1. ACME's corporate culture 2. How ACME supports employees in career development, and 3. What key decisions you made that best supported your career path while you were there.

And, McLeod reminds, don’t forget to express your gratitude: “Afterwards you graciously thank them, in handwriting, and follow up on any leads or pointers they've given you. That gives you ability to circle back, and let them know how you fared when you followed up. Now, viola, you are building a relationship with that person.”

What should new grads seek to accomplish through networking?

“The objective should be to build respectful, authentic relationships,” McLeod says. “I try to reframe the word 'networking" because frankly I think it's a turn off to many grads.  I don't think they sometimes know what it means. Instead, I suggest they look at it as building relationships -- because they've already done a lot of that in their lives, at school, in internships, in summer jobs, on sports teams. They've done it all along, they just don't realize it.”

Check out more New Grad Career Guide posts

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The CareerBliss Team

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