I’ve learned many lessons since graduating from college. I’ve learned that buying a pair of shoes isn’t as important as eating dinner, that keeping in touch with friends is hard and that your first job out of college isn’t always as amazing as you think it will be.
But the biggest and most important lesson I’ve learned is that networking is the key to success.
You may not want to believe it, but when it comes to getting ahead in life, it’s all about who you know. Every single job (from full time gigs to random babysitting jobs) that I’ve gotten since I graduated from college has been because I had some connection to the person hiring. Whether it be the college I went to, the sorority I was in, or just some random person who knew my mom, I would not have gotten the position if that connection hadn’t been there.
And it’s not like I wasn’t qualified.
I went to highly regarded university where I maintained a 3.6 GPA. I held internships, jobs and leadership positions. I had an exceptional resume and did everything in my power to prepare myself for the big job hunt post graduation. But while some of that mattered, what got me to stand out in the endless pile of resumes (of equally impressive candidates) was the fact that someone knew me.
Networking and making yourself known to people in your industry of choice is the best thing you can do to find a job. People are more apt to hire you if they know you, so getting people to know you should be your first priority. It’s not hard and it’s never too early to start.
Here are a few tips you can use to make yourself known to the right people:
1. Find Networking Events: Every industry has them and while they may be boring and stuffy, you should definitely attend. But don’t just go and stand around. Go out of your way to introduce yourself to people. Your confidence will impress people, and your interest and knowledge about the industry will make you memorable.
2. But Don’t Act a Fool: Networking events are often held during Happy Hour and will usually have some booze. It’s totally acceptable to have one drink to loosen up those nerves, but it is not OK to get drunk and say something stupid. You want to be remembered for your intellect and professionalism, not for telling that story about the time you had a threesome with the offensive linemen of your college football team.
3. Stay in Contact: Whether it’s a professor, a family friend, an old boss, or someone you met at a networking event, you must keep in contact with them if you want them to remember you. Send follow up emails to keep you fresh in their mind so they think of you when a position becomes available. The emails don’t have to be long – just a “hello” to keep you on their radar is good enough.
And even if that person is not not one who does the hiring, knowing them can still help you get ahead; you can use them for a reference, or they can recommend you to the person who is. I’ve made tons of friends at various journalism networking events and they are always informing me of new opportunities popping up at their companies and passing my information along the people who are hiring. Had it not been for them, my resume would have surely been lost in the shuffle.
4. Every Opportunity is a Networking Opportunity: I know it seems totally fake and borderline douchey to try and network with everyone you meet, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, right? If you meet someone (anywhere) who works in your industry, get their information. You never know just who can help you get to the top and the more people you meet (and impress!) the better chance you’ll have.