Everyone should know a guy who knows a guy.
Having a rich and extensive network of professional contacts is a necessity in this day and age. People that can vouch for you and what you can do may be all that stands between a new job and another trip to the jobs board. But how do you go about shaking all of those hands and getting that many phone numbers?
Naturally, for someone that thrives in social environments, be they parties, sports team, career fairs, or any other gathering that presents the opportunity to mingle, this isn’t even second nature. Those with outgoing dispositions and charismatic personalities can work their way into social circles that can take other people years to be a part of. So, it goes without saying that the many introverts of the professional and pre-professional community start things off with a sizable disadvantage. While stressful, it is crucial that all the wallflowers in the jobs market ballroom find the resolve to engage their peers and get a conversation going. There’s no telling what a talk with the right person could accomplish.
So aside from working toward not being a shut-in, what are some other ways to expand your professional social networks? Social networks? Now there’s an idea.
If you were born anytime between today and every day before today, then chances are that you have a social media profile or, at the very least, are familiar with it in one form or another. If you several hours on Facebook or Instagram anyway, why not spend a portion of that time setting up a LinkedIn profile or a university sponsored careers site? These are some of the best places to research professionals in the discipline of your choice, and since these sites essentially exist for the explicit purpose of reaching out and learning more about employers, alumni, and mentors, you can pour over their info without the shame of feeling like a creep! When you feel like you’ve found someone that can help you out and give you some direction, drop them a line. Asking for an informational interview is a great way to get to know the person and ask relevant questions: What are your position’s responsibilities? What made you want to get into this business? How did you get the job you have now? Where did you work before this, and for how long? These kinds of questions will give you a better idea of what to expect on your road ahead, and tell the interviewee that you have a genuine interest in their profession. With any luck, they might just stay in contact with you.
When it comes to making connections in a university setting, it is astounding how many students completely miss out on all of the free events and services available on campuses. I graduated from Oakland University in 2016, the same year I made my first trip to their careers services center to start mock-interviewing and get some resume work-shopping done. I was the only one there. Out of curiosity, I asked the woman I was meeting with how often students came by. She told me “hardly anyone” came by that entire year. Students will pay thousands of dollars in borrowed money for courses and hundreds more on top of that for a book (or two), but they end up walking right past the offices that will help them connect with professionals after the fact for free. Money on the table. Money and connections.