Career Resources

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It's not who you know, but who knows you

There's an old saying about finding a job, particularly when it comes to new college grads, that goes, "It's not what you know, but who you know," meaning that your connections in the workplace are more important than your education. While this adage is certainly true, as evidenced by the high percentages of people finding jobs through networking (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of jobs are found through networking), a better measure of your networking success these days can be found in the amount of people who know you.

Many of my students have told me about the amazing opportunities that came their way as the result of reaching out to people at the companies they want to work at and conducting informational interviews, particularly with alumni. The alums will be quite impressed that you took the initiative, and you’ll most likely be one of the first people they contact when an internship or job opening occurs in their company. It is almost becoming a career necessity for students to network, as more and more companies adopt the practice of obtaining internal referrals from current employees when seeking to fill vacancies.

Understandably, some students find this process to be intimidating and overwhelming. They usually think, "Why would an industry professional want to talk with me, a lowly student. What can I offer them?" Well, in fact, most alumni do want to help and give back to students at their alma mater. It wasn't so long ago that they were in your shoes. A word of advice: it’s better to reach out to alums that are in entry-level positions, as opposed to alums farther along in their career path, because they can more easily relate to where you are right now. One way to demystify this scary process called informational interviewing is to think of it as “having a conversation,” as one of my students so simply described it. And just think about this…you’ll be providing the alum with the opportunity to reminisce about his or her college days, and pretty soon you’ll find yourself bonding over mutual team projects, professor preferences and dining hall disasters.

Other students have had tremendous success by attending company information sessions and networking with recruiters. Recruiters love it when students take the initiative to find out more about their company, demonstrate their interest in working there and maintain the relationship with them over the course of their college years. Some students have shared stories with me about recruiters making exceptions for them and allowing them to apply for positions, even when they don’t meet all of the hiring criteria, because of networking.

Another great way to “get known” by people in your industry is to have a robust LinkedIn profile, frequently joining in on group discussions, updating your status regularly and highlighting your industry acumen.  Make it a point to share with your LinkedIn network relevant books or articles you're reading, projects you’re working on, or events you’re attending. 

According to the results of NACE’s 2009 Student Survey, nearly 70 percent of students found networking helpful in finding a job. Shouldn’t you be joining the growing number of students who are taking advantage of this guaranteed approach to career success? Trust’ll be glad you did. Not only will it pay off in terms of short-term results, but you’ll be developing and honing the networking skills that will reap benefits for you throughout your career.


Lydia Afemna said...

I have posted a networking article to the Laid Off Lounge. Although the site is for laid off professionals, graduating students might find it very helpful.

How to Network with Reps and Managers—Get off that computer and get out there! Read more...

Kera Greene M.Ed. said...

Great article! As a long-time Career Counselor (since 1983) I know the difficulties people have in getting a 'foot in the door' in companies, and networking has proven to be crucial in this endeavor. I have found that most people, including older job seekers as well as the new grads, have never heard of an informational interview. It is a very important tool. One note of caution however.. just because it appears to be a 'casual conversation' don't be fooled. The interviewee is on trial and is being judged. Maintain a professional demeanor, and language usage throughout.