Networking for recent graduates
This weeks post is about professional networking. After working with a couple of execs and someone who recently graduated, I realized there is an entire generation and demographic of candidates reinventing the wheel and in this case, the wheel is made of stone.
When I talk with recent graduates about where they are finding their job leads, I hear the usual suspects: Indeed, Monster, Craigslist, etc.
When I ask my sr. management and executive friends where they would start a job search, I hear their usual suspects: friends, personal and professional networks, professional groups / associations, etc. They rely on their professional networks.
See the difference? I don’t remember the last executive we hired that came through a job posting. I also don’t know the last time we hired a recent graduate via a referral. The latter happens occasionally, but not too often. When it does happen, the referral comes through one of two sources.
- The parent of the recent graduate is a sr. manager / executive and is leveraging their professional network to make the introduction.
- The referral comes from a young person with a career in social media but these positions are usually already posted. Hmmmm, does the professional networking theme sound familiar?
It’s not what you know, it is who you know.
We have all heard that if you want to find a job, you should network, network, and network. What I realized after talking with a number of recent graduates is that many candidates do not understand the subtleties of how to network.
What professional networking isn’t
Here are two typical networking scenarios that I experience with recent graduates.
Situation 1: I receive an email or a text asking for help.
HRNasty, I have an interview in two days. Can you meet me (usually at a location convenient to the graduate) tomorrow to help me prep?
I limit these sessions to a polite “I am booked tomorrow, maybe we can talk over the phone for a few minutes”. I am not going to put my name on a candidate who is ill prepared. I might as well be trying to teach you how to land a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier, in the dark, and in an hour. We generally only have time to practice 2 or 3 questions. I hang up the phone fully knowing that even if they nailed these two questions (out of the 10 that would be asked), they probably won’t land a second interview.
Situation number 2: I receive an email or a text
I heard you helped Johnny land a great job and got him good money; can you do the same for me? Can we meet? (usually at a location convenient to the graduate and no offer to buy me coffee and cookie). That isn’t bitterness you hear in my voice. Don’t worry, I do run into the occasional young person that gives me hope for the future, but usually it boils down to the following:
Within the first few minutes of our initial meeting I am presented with the following:
- Young person in jeans and a t-shirt. No hint of business casual dress or the even the ability to suit up.
- “I am looking for a job”
- “Here is my resume”. We share a single copy for the rest of the meeting. (I guess they wanted to save a tree.)
- “What should I do?”
That is not just “what I get”, this is “all I get”. It may sound harsh and unbelievable but you would be surprised how often the initial conversation boils down to the above.
I ask a few of the below questions:
- How can I help?
- What do you want to walk away with at the end of this meeting?
- What kind of job / internship / introductions are you looking for?
- What size company are you looking to work in?
- What vertical or industry excites you?
- How much do you want to make?
I get blank stares, a shrug of the shoulders or an “I don’t know”. I quickly come to the conclusion that asking more questions isn’t going to get me much to work with. The scary thing is that the candidate doesn’t recognize there is a problem.
The evolutionist in me quickly concludes that cavemen raised this kid. If these were Neanderthal times, Darwin would have a full belly.
The humanitarian in me figures that there just isn’t any professional networking experience. No one sat the kid down and showed them how to demonstrate “effort”, “interest”, or “effort”. Yeah, I said “effort” twice.
Hopefully this will give you food for thought as you approach your professional networking meetings. Don’t worry, the post for next week is already written: What I experience when professional networking with an executive and how to differentiate yourself.
See you at the after party,
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone that is good at something. E.G. “He has a nasty fork ball”.