Networking is not Coffee - How to Build Your Professional Connections as a New Graduate


Getting a job is all about WHO you know. The secret is NETWORKING!

How many have heard that before?

With that advice, did you begin to network without knowing how to do so efficiently?

I commend upcoming/recent graduates for listening to advice being proactive in their job search. When someone tells you to network to get a job, he/she should also explain how!

Recruiter’s mailboxes fill up with messages like this:

Hi Recruiter,

I am a recent engineering graduate who is interested working for XX Company. I would like the opportunity to talk about my qualifications for the Entry-Level Engineering position posted on your website. My resume is attached for your review.

Would you meet for coffee to discuss?

Regards,

College Grad

More likely than not, this Inmail/email is ignored and eventually deleted. Frustrated and confused candidates send out more emails as they haven’t gotten any feedback not to do so. Sometimes, the deflated candidate takes to various forms of social media to vent, complain, and even insult the recruiter and the company. Hint: Don’t do this! Publicly bashing anyone will not fix the broken system and will only hurt your chances of employment.

Recruiters are the face of the company. They’re the reception, sales & marketing, plus a multitude of other roles, all in one. That means they can’t say what they want to….or even provide information that might help you.

But if recruiters put all of their bottled up rants into a response, it might read something like this:

Dear College Grad,

Congratulations on earning your engineering degree. Did you know that you are one of over 100,000 engineering graduates this year? True, only about 25,000 are MEs, and probably no more than 1,000 want to work here due to the geographic location, industry, or other reason. But can you imagine if even half of those...500...contacted me personally? Responding to them would be my full-time job, and I have 25 other roles to fill on any given day.

As for your qualifications, show me, don’t tell me. Send in a resume with your achievements and results relevant to the job and industry. Write a smart cover letter to give some insight into your personality. Pair it with a LinkedIn profile that tells your story. You may not be a match, but at least I will have some valid information to evaluate. Also, please submit your resume via our ATS. We pay a lot for it, and it keeps us sane. Per the government regulations, that is what officially makes you an applicant and allows me to consider you.

I realize you were told to get a STEM degree (or any degree) and were shown lots of numbers guaranteeing a successful career. But the reality is you still have to convince an employer to make you an offer. From your point of view, this is a draft where you’re one of the top picks, and companies are competing for you (the "war for talent" people talk about). But all the recruiters see is the line of students at the career fair waiting just to talk to them about a job that already has 100 resumes.

For a different perspective, the person hiring you may have gotten his or her first job after reading through ads in the newspaper. They bought the expensive paper (like three hours of minimum wage), typed an envelope and paid for a stamp to send in a single resume. They want you to show some effort as well. Again, not saying this is right or fair, but that’s how some hiring managers think. Perspective is everything.

Lastly, I noticed that you sent this same email to a hiring manager (the wrong one), the entire recruiting staff, the VP of Human Resources and the CEO. You were probably told to do so, with a comment that recruiting won’t respond to you and that you need to send it in to an actual person. Most often, because hiring managers don’t think it’s their job to do “recruiting” (yes, that sounds a bit ironic), it’s just SPAM. Sometimes though, they ALL forward it to me. So I’m flooded with your email times 10. If all 500 interested candidates emailed 10 other people in the company and all of them forwarded it to me, I would get 5,000 emails + the LinkedIn Inmail, application in the ATS, voicemail, and the email addressed to me. Imagine?

If you were an outstanding candidate, I would respond anyway. If not, I’ll probably answer you in fear that if I don’t, you’ll send another email to the CEO complaining or blast it all over social media. Either way, I’ll be a little bitter that you wasted my time! I’m not incentivized by how many emails I respond to; I’m measured on how quickly I can fill a job requisition. And because you are unique and I need to answer your email and copy the ten other people, my family is having frozen pizza for dinner again!

Best of luck to you in your job search.

Regards,

RECRUITER

P.S. No, I do not want to meet for coffee. I don’t get a coffee budget, I don’t want the calories, and have other things to do than to locate strangers at coffee shops. Not to mention, I have no idea who you are and if your profile is really you. It’s kind of creepy when you think about it!

OK, I am testing your sense of humor! Laughter is healthy.

Indeed, no rational recruiter would send that. They should be seeking another career if so! But at one point, those of us who have done this for several years, have had at least a few sentiments cross our minds.

Networking is a big topic, so here are a few pointers to do it right:

  • If you wouldn't say it in person, don’t put it in an email/Inmail. For example, if you see someone walking a dog while you are walking your dog, would run up and say, "Hi, I noticed that we both have dogs. Let's go to coffee and discuss how you can help me get a job."

  • Most of the time, don't send your resume. It is quite presumptuous is it not? To think that they will try to help you find a job at their company, with their network?

  • Have a specific, reasonable ask. For example, you are new to Atlanta, you may find another graduate from your alma mater who is also in Atlanta and working for a target company. You may only invite them to connect. And then you can follow up with a request. Maybe a quick question, like, "I noticed you work for XX company in Buckhead. I am interested in working there and looking at XX a few other companies nearby. I just moved to the Atlanta area. Have you found the commute a challenge? Have you ever taken MARTA?" After a few exchanges, they may even offer to help you!

  • Be a giver. Depending on the situation, you may like or comment on their article or post. Perhaps make them aware of a networking group, LinkedIn group, MeetUp, etc. that you have found helpful. Inviting them to that may even be fitting.

  • If you have applied for a job, you can certainly try to connect with the potential hiring manager, recruiter or human resources manager. Just let them know that you applied online and would like to connect on LinkedIn as well. That’s a door to starting a conversation.

  • If it’s a target company but no position available, the same applies. Reach out to them as someone who is researching the company. Then make a small request.

If you are not sure who to add to your professional network:

  • Start with your classmates, professors, and current close contacts.

  • Expand to alumni in your field and city and then perhaps all geographic regions if you are open to relocation.

  • Branch out to high school friends including people from clubs, etc. It wasn’t that long ago!

  • Consider all past and present volunteer work.

  • Don’t forget the adult leaders such as coaches, youth groups, tutors, etc.

  • Add other adults such as your friend’s parents and your parent's friends and neighbors.

  • As you build a target company list, you can grow contacts there.

  • Join professional groups, LinkedIn groups, Meetups and stay in touch to nurture relationships.

Once you start making this list, it might be difficult to stop!

Networking initially seems awkward. Don’t fret! It gets easier as you realize most people want to help you. They don’t know how. Make sure your “asks” are proportional to your relationship. Be a giver, not just a taker. Be efficient by having a specific question. And most importantly, grow a network that will not only help you launch but will become a community of professionals learning from each other. You may discover this to be more valuable than your degree!

Up next: The Phone Interview.

About the Author

Amy Cooney is a Recruiter, Career Coach, Talent Consultant, and CEO of AC Talent Consulting. With over 10 years of recruiting experience, she knows talent. Because Amy believes in people first, she listens to both clients and candidates to become a trusted partner. As a Career Coach, she helps people of all levels accelerate their careers through the Accelerate You! custom coaching program, resume writing, and group sessions. Amy also provides consulting and training to corporate talent acquisition departments in the areas of recruitment strategy, process improvement and operations, and employer branding. She is available for public speaking, seminars and facilitating career-related events.

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