Attention new grads: 4 mistakes to avoid when networking was originally published on College Recruiter.
As a college senior or new grad, you may think you are totally new to networking. Actually, you’ve been doing it for years: every time you have asked a friend to tell you about a new app they like, every time you have offered information about your dentist to a new neighbor, every time you’ve asked around about a great place to get sushi. Networking is simply about mutual help.
Networking as you graduate is not about shopping your resume around, it’s about establishing trust and confidence in you among people who can help you – and who YOU might be able to help as well. New grads need to do this just like their older colleagues.
Do’s and don’ts:
1. DON’T be unprofessional:
Do the meeting in an office-like setting. Do the meeting, if it’s on Zoom or similar, in a room that does not have a distracting background (like a too-bright window or your unmade or even made bed). Use your laptop or fixed-position tablet, not your phone, and not in your car! (I once had to ask a new grad to pull over and park, before we could start!). The contact is important so give them all your focused attention.
Use your laptop or tablet because the other person may want to show you something on their screen so you’ll need that size screen to see it.
If your meeting is in person, ask the contact if it’s best to meet at their office or in their building. It not only helps them to do it close to their workplace, it gets you into their building where you can see the facility and the people who work there, and pick up on any vibe, good or bad! Or meet at a café or coffee shop that’s not too noisy. Offer to pay for their coffee or water (they will probably insist on paying, which is nice so let them). Shake hands hello and goodbye, and maintain eye contact. Have a business card to give them – sure, it won’t have a company name on it but it will have your contact information. And you’ll feel great having one.
2. DO let the contact talk:
If an established professional is willing to offer you their time, and that person is willing to give that time for free, a good practice is you don’t end the meeting – if they want to keep talking and offering you more, let that influencer keep going! They’re helping you, which can be priceless! (As your mom might say, accept gifts when they are given to you.) A recent networking meeting with a new grad was abruptly ended by him. Surprised, I asked him why, he said “Because you said 30 minutes, my time is now up”. Talk about putting yourself in a lesser position! Plus, he’d scheduled another meeting right after ours so there was no way we could continue.
Don’t be obsessed with your schedule (and making important appointments that close together is just not wise; give yourself a few minutes between meetings, whether on Zoom or at Starbucks). Let the contact talk if they want to go beyond the expected meeting time.
3. DON’T expect the contact to do your job search for you:
As generous as a contact may be, it’s not their responsibility to do YOUR job search. Giving out your resume to everyone is an old tactic that today, can backfire. Instead, build some trust with the contact first. Keep the meeting short, say 30 minutes (an hour is too long, and no one will believe you if you ask “for only 10-15 minutes” because it always ends up being more than that). In that time, offer help to THEM. What kind of help can you give? New grads have newer knowledge than their elders. Sharing that knowledge tells them what you know AND informs them what’s happening in the field today. Also, you are part of a new generation that they may not ordinarily have access to: you could introduce them to others your age, in your circle, who might be a target audience they want to know better. So never feel “What could I possibly offer?” because it’s a lot. Take the initiative and check back in with them about the direction of their company and what problems the company has that you might solve. Your resume needs to be customized for each company, so point them instead to your LinkedIn profile (you’ve done a good one, right?). Putting your LinkedIn address on your business card, and/or in your email signature, will lead them to your profile which has a lot in common with your resume.
4. DO send a TY note (via email):
Almost 3 months ago, I accepted a networking meeting with a new grad who was referred to me by a trusted friend. In the 30-minute Zoom meeting, I did a lot of listening, asked a lot of questions designed to help her see the focus in her search. As the meeting ended, I sent her some materials that we talked about in the meeting, and links to some resources that would help her. And because another coach I know would be a better fit for her than me, I included that coach’s contact info in the summary email I sent her, asking her to confirm with me when she’d been in touch with that coach. I wanted to know she was being taken care of.
To date, I’ve received no TY note from this new grad (I urge candidates to use email because it’s quicker than snail mail), have received no follow up, no response to the info I sent including that of the other coach. Who never heard from her.
How does this kind of behavior hurt you, the candidate right out of college? It shows poor manners to the contact. It feels to the contact like they’re being used. It shows a lack of communication that is critical to networking, especially when that person can HELP them. Result: no trust was established. No confidence in the candidate was built. So no way would I send her to the rest of my network. And last, it reflects poorly on ALL new grads…the contact might be reluctant to meet with or help others in your graduating year.
I spoke to the person who sent her to me, expressing my disappointment. Now they have less confidence in sharing more of their network with her.
See how that can hurt you and others trying to network? Do all you can to show appreciation and gratitude.
A final word
So be sure to avoid those beginner’s mistakes, and to do the recommended activities. Networking is a skill that needs continual use to be successful. It’s like learning to drive a car: awkward at first, then less so, then you have confidence. Keep at it, and it will be a tool you’ll use your entire career.
–Joanne Meehl is a CAREER and JOB SEARCH Strategist. The Resume Queen® – 𝑨 𝒍𝒖𝒄𝒌𝒚 𝒄𝒐𝒎𝒑𝒂𝒏𝒚 𝒊𝒔 𝒍𝒐𝒐𝒌𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒚𝒐𝒖! Helping new grads (and older folk) land your next, BEST role, faster. A real coach/partner who gets you to focus, see your value, communicate who you ARE so that you get that choice #job. Former hiring manager, college career center director.