They call it networking. Seeking out people who work in the industry you are trying to break into, making small talk, exchanging business cards, shaking hands. It’s little like speed dating. Is this one going to work out? Probably not. Next!
Is it really true that “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? Well, yes. In almost any field 80% of the jobs are not posted publicly. They hire someone they already know; or who knows someone they know; or who knows someone, who knows someone – So you trudge off to another job fair and hope for the best.
Is Anybody Out There?
That’s fine, but are you sure that you are tapping all your resources? If you are an undergrad you may be overlooking an important resource – your fellow students. In your dorm, fraternity/sorority, club or volunteer organization may reside exactly the person you need to talk to regarding your career plans. But how do you find them?
First all make an extra effort to look. There are the people you are comfortable with – friends, classmates of the same major, teammates from sports, etc. What kind of conversations do you have with these people? Nice weather, bear of a test, great pizza, what’s on this weekend? Maybe you could change the subject.
Starting a Conversation Could Be a Lucky Strike
Start asking them questions that show genuine interest. Where are you headed after you graduate? Do you have Professor Expert for your major class? What do think of his ideas? What was the subject of your science fair project? Listen first, and then talk about your own major or science project. Anything that will start a conversation about interests and experience. You may get around to job talk, you may not. Don’t force the issue. Just keep your eyes and ears open. You may have been sitting next to budding entrepreneur or a prizewinning chef in Medieval History class without even realizing it.
Brave a New World
Expand your horizons. Join a club. Do volunteer work. Manage a sports team. Seek out situations where you can work with others side by side. The fastest way to get to know someone is to work toward a goal together. Again, simply show interest in the person. “My major’s psychology, what’s yours?” “Pre-med. But my mom’s a psychologist.” Take it from there. Don’t be pushy. Just let it flow. Most people like to talk about themselves.
Seek out people who are not like you. If you are a Christian, attend a Muslim meeting. If you are a Buddhist visit the Lutheran Club. Is the Chinese American Club putting a New Year bash? Does your campus sponsor a Kwanzaa celebration? Go. Watch. Ask someone what’s going on. Share your customs and ask them about theirs.
What’s Your Point?
So, what if you have established that the person has connections in your field and you manage to get on the subject of job searching? Keep it general at first. “What can you tell me about…” “Has your mom had any experience with…” Talk about a specific person they have mentioned. Close with “Do you think I could contact them? You can write the information right here, or email me. Here’s my address…” (Always have a pad and pencil handy.)
If you are a naturally outgoing person, none of this should be too difficult. Some have a flair for easy conversation. But those with a more reserved nature might balk at the idea of using a friendship, or striking one up with a stranger in order get a professional advantage. So forget that part. Make your goal to find out as much as you can about someone. Get your mind off of yourself entirely. If both of you are students, the subjects of majors and jobs are almost bound to come up. Who knows, maybe you know something that can help them.Making and Keeping Reference Contacts is good but If not, you will come out of the experience a braver and deeper person. And isn’t that one of the reasons you went to college in the first place?
You can get a lot of help on how to contact as a student by clicking at http://icenter.ucsd.edu/about/contacts/ispo.html