We’ve all heard the statistics. With an average of 83 applicants per graduate job you may be wondering what exactly it is you have to do to be one of the ‘lucky ones’. Are they better? Brighter? More experienced? Higher qualified? Chances are that whilst they may indeed be some of these things, one vital ingredient to their success may lie in the fact that they are better connected, and not afraid to use it.
The old adage of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” still holds true in so many job seeking situations. But a danger lies in assuming that networking is only something you start doing with your first graduate appointment. On the contrary, many students are missing out by failing to realise that networking can and should start way before graduation even takes place. Ask yourself: are you really taking advantage of all the current opportunities around you to be connected with the right people?
So, first things first. We all know about social media. But how many students are actually using it? Failing to utilise websites such as LinkedIn and Twitter is a major disadvantage in days when so many employers are changing the way they recruit to include these very platforms. Having a LinkedIn account shows you mean business. But its benefits don’t end there. There are hundreds of groups to join which will allow you to start mingling with professionals and recruiters in your chosen industry. Social media works best the more proactive you are at joining in discussions and asking pertinent questions. Similarly, Twitter provides countless opportunities to link with the companies you are interested in on a more informal level, as well as advertising your own skills and experience to those who may be interested.
The danger of social media, however, is that it is oh-so-easy to hide behind as a networking tool. Face-to-face networking remains as important as ever and to really up the ante you need to make sure you are doing both. Put yourself in situations where you are meeting the right people. At university this may mean getting on the right side of your tutors, joining clubs and societies or getting involved in Student Union politics. It may mean seeking out internship or volunteering opportunities. But don’t forget (and so many do) the opportunities being provided by your university careers service. Make the effort to attend employer presentations. These are a great chance to find out what competencies and skills employers are looking for and what their recruitment processes involve. Try and get the chance to speak with them one-to-one, collecting business cards and contact details for your future reference. Similarly, find out about careers fairs and do the same there. They are not just about accessing live vacancy opportunities - they are also about fact-finding and networking, so dress to impress and do your research beforehand.
With all this going on, it is important not to overlook the more traditional methods of networking - asking family and friends for any leads they have which may help you with your career. This isn’t ‘cheating’ - it’s making effective use of your contacts. Companies take personal referrals very seriously, something you will discover as your career progresses, so what are you waiting for? Start making the most of it now. Get connected, stay connected and see your job opportunities increase.