Written based on the expertise of Cindy Hosea, Associate Director of Graduate Accounting Program and Information Systems Graduate Program – Kelley Graduate Career Services.
Jane* conducted her job search like just about most other college students. She applied to jobs that fell within her scope, showed up for career fairs, and went to nearly every company-hosted event on campus. Which is why she was left confused and discouraged when she was approaching graduation without a job or even the prospect of an offer.
When she approached her career coach, it wasn’t hard to figure out what had happened. Jane had been showing up to the right events, but she hadn’t been engaged. Fortunately, she made another right choice in showing up to career services. Her coach explained that companies weren’t hiring her because they didn’t know her – there was no one advocating on her behalf. The session that happened in Cindy’s office that afternoon was a breakthrough, both for Jane’s immediate job search and the rest of her professional career. Their plan of action first set out to tackle the self-limiting thoughts that were holding Jane back from networking from the start.
Hurdle #1: Networking feels so awkward. I hate pretending to be friends with people to get what I need.
If this is your mentality, you should feel awkward! No one enjoys being used. Unfortunately, it’s often the case that the urgency of getting a job often can get in the way of building a relationship. Relationships take time, and although you may not feel like that’s something you have much of at the moment, successful networking is going to take commitment and a change of attitude.
Hurdle #2: Why would they want to talk to me?
This isn’t as much about them as it is about you. When you strip everything else away, this is actually your pride getting in the way. It can be hard to put yourself out there and risk rejection, but so many people are just excited to help! Put yourself in their shoes and think about how you would feel if someone wanted to learn about you – pretty good feeling, right?
Hurdle #3: I don’t know what questions to ask.
Nothing that can’t be taken care of with a little planning. Making an agenda for your conversation takes a little work, but that’s the least you can do. It can be as simple as:
"Do you mind if we start with a few questions about your career, in general, and then more specifically to projects you are currently working on? My goal for the call is to learn ___."
From there, just go with the flow. Have a list of open-ended questions prepared ahead of time, but be open and flexible to how the conversation progresses. If your conversation partner says something interesting, it’s okay to deviate from the list and ask a follow-up question.
Jane’s story has a happy ending. She developed relationships with several people Cindy put her in touch with, and she ended up with not one but three offers before graduation. Once the alumni got to know her, they knew Jane would represent them well and they would look good for bringing in such great talent, once again proving networking isn’t as one-sided as you might have believed. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of getting out of your own way to help both of you out.
*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual