Which is more difficult for students – finishing school or looking for a job? Most would say the latter because it requires an entirely new set of skills. However, just like any other assignment, job search can be broken down into manageable pieces. One of the most important steps is networking and it’s never too early to start the process. In fact, you’ll be in the best position if you start building your network as soon as you decide on a major.
1. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, create one. If you have one, make it as complete as possible. LinkedIn.com is a professional networking site used by most organizations. It is free to join.
- Include relevant information – classes, internships, professional organization affiliations, honors/awards, publications, website(s).
- Add a professional looking photo.
- Create a headline, the short description shown below your name, that reflects who you are and the type of job you’re seeking.
- Add contact information – make sure your email address sounds professional.
- Add recommendations – ask professors and work supervisors – including volunteer work.
- Search for groups related to your field and the type of job you want. Select one or two of those groups, follow the conversations and contribute. Become visible.
- Add connections with common group members, alumni from all of your schools, professionals in your field. Connect with their connections. Expand your network as far as possible.
- Make sure your updates are visible to your contacts so you’ll show up in their feed. From Settings, select Privacy, then choose “yes” to Sharing Profile Edits.
- Change your personal URL to include your name. This can be done when editing your profile.
- Be sure you keep your profile up to date.
2. Look at the companies in the states/cities you’re targeting and the kinds of jobs they offer. Find people who work there and connect with them on LinkedIn. When you ask to connect, tell them who you are and why you’re interested in joining their network. As you identify companies, follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter. Be informed about their business and issues.
3. Prepare an elevator speech – a short description of who you are and what you’re looking for. It’s called an elevator speech because it should be short enough that you can tell someone during an elevator ride.
4. Reach out to individuals in your network. Tell them who you are, what you’re doing now and ask for advice. What type of jobs could you get? What type of jobs in your field do their companies offer? What do they think about their company? What job search advice can they offer? Always thank people for their time and ask if there’s anything you can do for them. Most will say no but they’ll remember and appreciate the offer.
Your goal is to build a network of people who will help you in your job search – who will send you opportunities, walk your resume to Human Resources, introduce you to people in their network, and provide valuable advice and support. Job search is not a solitary experience. The best jobs are found through networking and doors are opened with the help of others. You still have to walk through the door and seal the deal, but without others’ help the door may never open. Not everyone will help but most people will.
Networking early will make you stand out and significantly increase your chances of getting the job you want. And when the time comes, you can provide the same service to someone else.