New grads and first time job seekers often receive different versions of the same basic advice from mentors and counselors: Lean on your network. “Turn to your network,” these sources say. “Your network will help you!” But as young job seekers follow this advice and put this step into action, their network contacts answer the call with a common and confounding question: “What exactly would you like me to do for you?”
The next time you reach out to someone from your list of connections—your friend’s parents, your parent’s friends, your former professor, the person you met at an industry event, or your one-time internship coordinator—here are a few things you may decide to ask for and/or expect. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know… and how these people can bring you into the exclusive, closed off corners of your chosen professional field.
1. They can tell you about an open position.
You can ask for (or your contact may offer) information about positions that have recently become available. Or even better, positions that are about to become available but haven’t yet been publically announced. Many companies already know who they intend to hire for a position on the day the job is posted, and that lucky person is often someone who’s been tipped off or privately introduced to the hiring manager by a trusted friend or colleague.
2. They can speak well of you.
You can ask your network contact to serve as a reference, which may or may not involve any proactive effort on her part. Asking a former boss or teacher to write a long, detailed letter of recommendation may be more complex than asking her to speak well of you if a potential employer reaches out her by phone. But in either case, most people are honored to be asked and they don’t consider this a bothersome task.
3. They can give you advice and professional tips that will help you reach your goals.
You can ask your contact to sit down with you (or talk to you over the phone), and give you some tips that will help you succeed in this industry. You can also ask her to summarize some general advice in the form of an email. If you have specific questions, this will make it easier for her to comply with your request.
4. They can create a position for you.
Sometimes your network contact has enough influence to actually create a position that’s designed around your specific needs and talents.
5. They can show trust in you and take a chance on you so you get some much–needed experience.
When you have no experience, it’s hard to land a job. But it’s hard to gain that experience until you convince someone to roll the dice and hire you. You can make your case using your high grades and good looks…but managers will be more likely to take a chance on you if they know you personally.
6. They can back you up when things go wrong.
In the early stages of your professional life, you can expect to make a few mistakes. But if you have a strong network, these mistakes don’t have to end your career before it gets off the ground. If you lose your job, alienate a gatekeeper, make a bad gamble, or let an opportunity pass you by, you can rewrite history with a little help from somebody on the inside.
Once you receive any of these offers, gestures, leg-ups, or handouts, show appropriate gratitude. Never forget those who have reached down and pulled you up without any expectation of personal gain. And as soon as you’re able, turn around and offer the same courtesy and kindness to someone else coming up the ladder behind you.
LiveCareer (www.livecareer.com), home to America’s #1 Resume Builder, connects job seekers of all experience levels and career categories to all the tools, resources and insider tips needed to win the job. Find LiveCareer on Facebook and visit LiveCareer’s Google+ page for even more tips and advice on all things career and resume-related.
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