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Looking for a job can feel daunting. There’s the resume and the cover letters; the job fairs; and time spent applying, interviewing and waiting to hear that you are the chosen one among possibly hundreds of applicants.

Though online job boards can make the process seem easier (fill out a form, submit and wait for an offer!), it rarely works that way, unfortunately. Submitting online applications and hoping for a good result is a little like buying a lottery ticket—it could happen, but it probably won’t.

Candidate networking with employerInstead, we encourage our students to spend the vast majority of their energy and time actively reaching out and speaking with people that may be able to provide information, assistance and introductions to employees at the targeted company. Candidates may need to eventually apply online for specific positions, but having a referral from a current employee is valuable to both the candidate and the human resources recruiter. If we’re picking percentages, I’d say 85% networking to 15% online applications.

Whether you’re a current student about to enter the workforce for the first time or a seasoned professional seeking a new opportunity, if you’re in the market for a job, your career search should involve quite a bit of networking—including contacting and meeting with acquaintances, connections, recruiters and potential hiring managers.

If ‘networking’ brings to mind images of rapid-firing your elevator speech at strangers, passively handing out business cards and asking acquaintances for one-sided favors (a job; an introduction; a reference), we have news for you. Effective networking begins with understanding who the conversation is centered on; surprise—it isn’t about the job seeker.

Networking is best practiced when the career seeker establishes an authentic interest in what the other person does, what they find interesting or challenging about their work, and what their interests are. By first making the conversation about the information the other person is willing to share about their expertise, closing with a request for an introduction or ideas for additional companies or people to reach out to becomes a more natural “ask” and more productive for both parties.

At Daniels Career Services, we recommend the following tips for networking success:

  • Start small
    • Start with a compact ask—15 to 20 minutes of time rather than an hour
  • Make it convenient
    • Offer to meet the other person at a location and time that is convenient for them
  • Be transparent
    • Make it clear what you want to talk about (and that shouldn’t be “I’m looking for a job, do you have one?”)
  • Schedule efficiently
    • Use a tool like Calendly to provide a single-click way to book the meeting—this eliminates the back-and-forth emails that cause many networking efforts to fail, and it sends a message that you value their time and know-how to makes things easier and not harder
  • Add value
    • Offer to be of assistance to the person you’re speaking with – mutually beneficial networking is far more valuable than when you’re viewed as the person that wants something out of someone else
  • Pick up the phone
    • Finally, for younger professionals, pick up the phone and call; it’s astonishing how much easier it is to make a connection with a human being when you’re willing to actually talk to them instead of relying on email

When it comes to getting in touch and receiving a response from those you want to connect with, the best approach is to leverage the things you have in common. Do some LinkedIn searching to find alumni from your school or alma mater. Look for people who share common interests by the companies they follow, trade associations and groups that they belong to, etc. If you share common interests, schools or companies, you have a solid foundation of things to talk about. We also tell our students to pull the “student card” when needed—when you’re a student, you’re viewed like a puppy; inexperienced and most people are willing to forgive mistakes in protocol.

Did you know Daniels alumni receive free lifelong access to career services? Or that our career advisors are available for evening appointments? Daniels Career Services offers tools, resources and engagement opportunities that put you in touch with your career goals. Students can explore career options, prepare for interviews, advance their own professional development and build successful business networks. For more information about Career Services at Daniels, or to schedule a coaching appointment, visit danielscareers.com.

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