If you’re a college senior, you’re probably not the happiest person on campus right now. Times are tough and that run of the mill job search strategy you were taught just won’t cut it anymore. There are a couple values that are more relevant than ever though, and that is differentiation and “it’s not what you know…but who you know”. You have to set yourself apart from the tide of college graduates that are gunning for the few jobs available. That is why establishing relationships with professionals is more important than ever.
Today, the best way to set yourself apart from other students is no longer with a perfectly worded resume, or by wearing an expensive suit to a job fair. The best way is to establish relationships. If your school is like mine, this isn’t something that you were necessarily trained in. You’re always told to keep to strict guidelines of what to write and say, but in reality that’s not what all professionals are looking for. Here are three things to keep in mind when connecting with professionals…
- Show respect AND personality. This is very important when connecting with professionals. The respect aspect is common sense, but many people mistake respect for very dry, boring conversation as to not offend anyone. It’s important to be respectful, but professionals also want to get to know WHO you are. Don’t be afraid to add some jokes and a little wit to your conversations. Laughter is a powerful tool and if a professional finds that you make them smile even once a day, they’ll like you that much more. Just make sure to remain respectful, and be careful not to offend anyone while expressing your personality. Know where the line is and don’t cross it.
- Create relationships by engaging in conversation. It’s important that you read what’s going on in your industry, and listen to what professionals are saying. Even more important, is that you engage in those conversations. Share your insights, show your passion and add value wherever possible. If you have a question, ASK! Most professionals love to give advice to students who are passionate and respectful.
- Use twitter. I don’t care if your friends talk about how “lame” twitter is (I hear it from my friends). I can attest that it is the #1 way to connect with experienced professionals. I’ve met some great professionals on twitter that I’m confident would recommend me for a job, solely based on a relationship that stemmed from a conversation on twitter. You can use twitter to meet new professionals, and to stay connected to contacts new and old.
- Comment on professional’s blogs. Anyone who writes a blog can tell you that they love getting comments. It shows that people are listening and that they care about what you have to say. If you continue to post on professional’s blogs, they will appreciate it and be more willing to establish a relationship.
- Establish a relationship before you ask for anything. This is somewhat of a dilemma I’ve faced as I’ve heard some professionals say get to the point, and I’ve heard others say that it’s rude to come right out and ask for a job. I’ve found that it’s always better to establish a relationship first. A professional will be more willing to hire someone that they’ve gotten to know beyond a resume and head shot. They’ll know who you are, that you have a passion in the field and will respect you for establishing a relationship.
- If you have to ask for a job right away…You should never come right out and say “I want a job!” If you can’t establish a relationship first, send an email explaining that you’d like to connect further, possibly set up a coffee meeting, and make mention that you are looking for a job. Make sure that it’s not the main focus of your initial message.
If you’re confused about what professionals look for in an email, check out Lauren Fernandez’s post on email etiquette.