by Ross Wade, Elon University School of COM career guy
Devin Kelley, an Elon alum (BS, Marketing, ’08) has become a colleague and friend of mine over the past couple of years. Devin is by far the BEST networker I’ve ever met. In fact, networking is basically his job at Method Savvy in Durham, NC. Earlier today Devin forwarded me an email he sent to a current iMedia student on networking…it was so good I had to share on the blog:
First piece of advice, your job search doesn’t start next spring, it’s already started. See if you can get yourself in the door with internships, etc. during the year to set yourself up for potential opportunities when you graduate. In addition, I always tell people, the worst time to look for a job is when you need one.
Ever been in a conversation with someone (even you parents) when they know you are going to ask them for something and you can tell they become more resistant to talking with you? That’s what happens when graduating students talk to everyone in the professional world once they “start looking for a job” or are about to finish up.
There is no reason why you can’t talk with potential employers, go to conferences or flat out ask to have a sit down with someone who does what you would like to do right now. Frankly, you’ll probably have better results now. Connect with the type of people you think you’d like to work with now and nurturing those relationships until the school year ends. Then, you already have credibility when you need something (a job, a reference, a introduction) in the spring.
Second, all of us out here in the “real world” aren’t that smart, but we are busy. If someone doesn’t get back to you about something its likely not because they didn’t like your resume or because your cover letter sucked or you didn’t do enough internships, that’s all bullshit. It’s likely just because they are busy and they don’t know you from Adam.
With that in mind, if you find someone or someplace that you would like to work or would like an opportunity, be focused, creative and diligent in reaching out to the them. Don’t settle for “send me your resume” that’s a meaningless cop out most of the time. Make personal connections with people within the organization and have confidence that even as a student, you have a skill set that is valuable to potential employers (because you do/will, we hired an iMedia alum this summer, I know). In short, companies (or non-profits) don’t hire/fire people, other people do.
Lastly, don’t expect to get something from every conversation you have, but talk with everyone. The more people you talk to about your skills, your program, about your interests, the more opportunities you’ll have to connect with people. Don’t expect something amazing or life changing to come out of every conversation, because it won’t. One of the biggest fallacies in networking is people thinking that as soon as they meet someone, they should be able to help each other out right then. Networking is every effective when people’s priorities align, but just because you were able to talk with someone, doesn’t mean they can help you right now. Example: You find a company you’d really like to work with and reach out to them. After a couple of weeks you get in touch with them and they agree to an “informational meeting”. If you find out they aren’t hiring right now does that mean the meeting is worthless? Of course not. When you have the chance to talk with someone ask about what they do, what there priorities are and most importantly, how you can help them. Then, stay in touch, you never know when you priorities will align down the road.