Graduation is a daunting prospect for anyone used to the college life, and beginning the job search or moving to a new city even more so. You can spend hours tweaking your résumé, drafting a flawless cover letter, and going through countless rounds of interviews and still come up with nothing.
There is a way to make the process easier on yourself, however. By far the most important – and most undervalued – skill you can have as a recent graduate is the ability to network effectively. A survey from Syracuse University found nearly a quarter of their graduating class of 2013 acquired their jobs through networking (and another 22 percent got theirs through an already existing network from an internship or previous job). Additionally, 2017 LinkedIn global survey results found nearly 80 percent of professionals consider networking important to career success, and that 70 percent of people hired in 2016 were hired somewhere they already had a connection.
Whether you’re moving back to your hometown, staying where you went to college, or moving to a new city like I did, working to create a network is crucial. Make use of alumni associations and events as a way to find people with whom you already have a common background, reach out to people in positions you find interesting for a coffee meeting, and talk to the people around you that could introduce you to others. It’s even better if you can find a job or internship for work in the meantime, as the people around you there can also certainly help you with your networking efforts. You never know who could introduce you to your next mentor, your next boss, or that person who can move your résumé to the top of the pile.
When you do find someone willing to talk over coffee, be sure to make it as easy for them to help you as possible. Meet wherever works best for them, and come prepared with lots of questions about where they work, what they do, how they got there, and what advice they have for job-seekers. When you’re done meeting, be sure to ask the most important question: whether they know other people to whom they could introduce you. Making sure you never leave a coffee meeting without at least one more person to connect with is one of the fastest ways to expand your network. You should also always follow up with a personalized thank you note to anyone you meet with and let them know how much you appreciate them taking the time to help you.
Above all, keep at it. The job search may seem like a slog when you’re going through it, but all your efforts will pay off in the end. Just make sure to remember the people who helped you along the way and keep them posted on your progress. They’ll be thrilled to hear when you do land a position.
Finally, make sure to always pay it forward by meeting the people who reach out to you for advice. By then you’ll know exactly what they’re going through and will be able to share your experience with the next round of graduates and job-seekers.