Networking is key to finding a job, especially in a big city like New York. With the job markets drying up it becomes more about who you know and less about what you’ve accomplished. Rubbing someone the right way (and having the skills to back up that charm) is bound to get you further in the game then coldly sending out resumes and cover letters. It sucks but this is the case right now, so for all you recent graduates out there, who I know are working arduously to snag that first job, these could be the few mistakes that are preventing you from having a real impact on the big wig gatekeepers of your fantasy life.
1. You’re Playing Hard To Get aka you’re shy. It’s difficult to ask your intern supervisor or even your good friend working in the industry for a favor. If you were raised like me, then your parents probably told you it was impolite to accept food or snacks at someone else’s house. Remember, if the person invited you then it’s all good, as long as you keep your feet off the coffee table. Asking for advice, introductions or help isn’t a nuisance or burden to the people around you, especially if they have long been supporting you. You’re not outright asking for a job, you’re asking for help and advice.
2. You’re Not Asking The Right Questions. Yes, you want your higher ups to dish on the benefits and perks of that amazing career you’ve been fantasizing about but is that really relevant to meeting your goals? What you need is insight: What are the backgrounds of the people who work at that company? What should be the tone of a cover letter: formal, conversational, pitch-y? What should I be doing now to build an exceptional portfolio? What gets your resume noticed by an HR department? Most importantly ask the person you’re speaking with how they got where they are.
3. You’re Creeping On Social Media. I get it, you follow your favorite editors, profs, developers on Twitter, you fee like you KNOW them. Well, they don’t know you and hollering at them over social media to ask them for career advice in 140 characters doesn’t make you look serious about your job hunt but rather seriously green. If you know this person writes for a certain publication find their contact info, begin an email dialogue with them and if they are receptive, ask to meet in person for a face-to-face chat.
4. You’re All Talk. Now that you’ve reached out to people, how are you going to show them you’re not just running game on them? You look the part but can you play it? Show them you are eager. Entitlement isn’t just a problem because it’s annoying but someone who is truly entitled actually doesn’t complete their work because they are arrogant enough to believe they don’t have to. No one wants to work with that. It’s too easy these days to get swayed by someone’s pretty words but who can’t deliver. If a prospective employer is interested but isn’t hiring, take the initiative: ask for an internship, ask if you can volunteer a few hours a week, ask if you can freelance in any way. Take the baby steps necessary so that when that employer is hiring they remember you.
5. You Didn’t Say Thank You. This comes up a lot. There is no excuse for rudeness especially when you are trying to impress someone. Send a thank you card, say it at the end of each email, at the the end of every meeting . . . It’s not awkward. Express how grateful you are and understand that someone has taken time out of their day just for you.
6. You’re Not Following Up. Don’t make a promise you can’t keep and keep the promises you do make. Someone told you to email another employee. They told you to write up a cover-letter or read up on a subject. DO IT. Showing them you can follow through on what you say, complete simple directions and take the initiative. This shows the person you really want that position and you’re willing to put in the work for it.
7. You’re Thinking Too Big. A CEO isn’t going to have the time to grab coffee with you when you’re just looking for an entry-level position. An entry-level or lower management employee is closer to you in age, experience and remembers the struggle. But don’t just reach out to people above you, reach out to those on your level. Your classmates, fellow interns and co-workers at that coffee shop are all going to be powerful people someday. Be kind, not fake, be helpful, not manipulative—everyone you know is a person who matters and who will one day be in the position to help you. Networking should extend to everyone in your circle not just those who have already achieved your goals.
Remember that networking isn’t a quick fix solution, in fact it’s more of a long-term project. You’re planting the seed of your, well, existence, and reaching out to the people who will grow in your industry. It’s basically psychological priming. They may not need you now but in a few months when that employer is looking to hire an entry-level graphic designer and they’ve been in talks with you, they’re going to at least give you a shot.
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