Maribeth Kuzmeski, author of "The Connectors: how the World's Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life," offers up some tips for new grads looking to make connections that will help them professionally for years to come. We've published several of them here and for more information you can check out her website or read her other books on connecting in the work force.
Rejuvenate your résumé.
Use your résumé to showcase how great you are. Think of it this way: If you are the CEO of Me, Myself, and I, Inc., you will need some marketing materials to promote your brand. Your résumé and cover letter will serve as those marketing materials.
“Grab the attention of employers by upping the impact of your résumé,”
Kuzmeski said. “That might mean bucking the traditional résumé format to include eye-catching (but informative) headlines. Don’t panic if you don’t have any significant job experience to include. Your college years probably yielded more valuable experience than you think. For example, be sure to include information about your internships, relevant class assignments, club leadership positions, etc. Just make sure your résumé is something an employer would want to read.”
Build your online résumé using LinkedIn.
According to Jobvite.com’s 2010 Social Recruiting Survey, 83 percent of employers plan to use social networks to recruit this year. If you aren’t already on business-focused social media sites like LinkedIn, take the time to set up a profile. In fact, LinkedIn is especially important because it is the most commonly viewed source for job seekers and employers.
Get face-to-face with potential employers!
Find a way to get in front of your potential employers. These days it is much harder to show potential employers what you are all about and to forge a connection with them because so much of the pre-hiring process is done online and through email. That is why it is essential that you find a way to communicate with them face-to-face. Dropping off a follow-up note or a résumé is a great opportunity for getting some face time with a potential employer. Another great face-to-face opportunity comes after the interview. To show you paid close attention to everything your interviewer said, stop by her office with an article that you think would be of interest to her or a small gift (e.g., a box of candy) based on some key piece of information—what Kuzmeski calls the “remarkable”—you found out about the interviewer during the interview.
“Once you are face-to-face, in an interview or otherwise, focus on having eye contact throughout,”
Kuzmeski said. “Lean in, show her you are interested in everything she says, and think before you answer any question. Thoughtful deliberation can be difficult if you’re nervous, but it is critical in answering your potential employer’s questions to the best of your ability. Establishing this face time is sure to set you apart from your job market competition.”
Become a contrarian networker.
The difficult first lesson that many college grads must learn about networking is that it is not the equivalent of asking, “Will you hire me?” The goal of effective networking is, instead, to build a mutually beneficial relationship with someone who may never even be able to give you a job, but might know someone who can.
“It’s what I call contrarian networking,”
Kuzmeski said. “Before you start networking, create a game plan. First, think about which contacts are the most important to you and which are the closest to you. Remember, these will not necessarily be the people you think might be able to give you a job on the spot. Of those contacts, consider who the best connectors are. Who knows the people you want to know? By connecting with other great connectors, you are able to widen your reach. You expand your opportunities.”
Network to the people you know.
Sometimes the most obvious connections are the ones most easily ignored. When you are building your network or considering who might be able to help you in your first big job search push, don’t forget about the fruit closest to the ground.
“Again, think about the people close to you, who might have huge networks of their own,”
Kuzmeski said. “For example, maybe your mom is or used to be a teacher. She’s had contact with tons of parents over the years who just might be working at a company that could hire you. Or maybe your cousin has a job in a completely different field, but he has a huge network of friends on Facebook. You never know how a great opportunity will present itself. Don’t count anyone out of your networking efforts, especially those who are the closest to you and therefore the most willing to help.”
Be prepared to pitch yourself in fifteen seconds.
You’re probably entering the job market eager to share your qualifications, experiences, and passion for your new career. But the hard reality for many college grads is that no one (except for your mom!) wants to hear that much about your accomplishments.
Kuzmeski said that when you are networking and getting the word out about yourself, you should resist the urge to give a ten-minute introduction about yourself. Instead, prepare a short, fifteen-second elevator pitch that hits on your high points and top skills. Think about what’s unique about what you have done and what will help you stand out from a crowd of other job seekers.
“The key to an effective pitch is keeping it short while still including your biggest wins,” Kuzmeski explains, For example, I’ve had great success with the following pitch about myself: ‘Hi! My name is Maribeth Kuzmeski. I own a marketing consulting firm, Red Zone Marketing, which employs six people who are all focused on helping companies find more business. I’ve worked with an NBA basketball team, with U.S. Senators, financial advisors, and mutual fund companies. I’ve even closed a sale while upside down in an aerobatic biplane at 7,000 feet above ground.’ I find that it is hard for most people to walk away without asking me about that last part or which NBA team or U.S. Senators I’ve worked with. Be creative and think about how you can frame your accomplishments in a way that gets people’s attention.”
Get involved in organizations that are connected to your profession.
Job fairs can be great ways to get in front of potential employers, but you might not want to focus only on companies you know are hiring. In order to meet people within your industry who might have the potential to hire you, attend trade shows and seminars and join organizations or associations connected to the profession you’d like to enter.
“These events and organizations provide great opportunities to help you get your name out,”
Kuzmeski said. “Again, you might not find someone who is going to hire you on the spot, but you will have the chance to meet people who have the potential to hire you in the future. Take hard copies of your résumé to these events. The more people within your industry or profession who know you the better.”
Volunteering is a great way to give back, but it is also a great way to sneak in some networking. For example, if you want a job in marketing, volunteer to work with the PR director at a nonprofit, or if you are an aspiring accountant, volunteer your financial expertise. Not only will volunteering put you in close contact with established professionals who can teach you about your field, but by taking the initiative to get work experience via volunteering, you show potential employers that you’re a hard worker who wants to get started right away.
“There are usually many hands that go into keeping a nonprofit running,”
Kuzmeski said. “Volunteering provides you the opportunity to meet them. And remember, you don’t necessarily have to be doing anything that is connected to your profession. Simply volunteering at a place with a cause you are passionate about will provide you the chance to get in front of a lot of great connectors that you might not have met otherwise.”
“Entering the job market for the first time is certainly daunting,” Kuzmeski said. “Adding to that challenge for today’s college graduates are the millions of experienced professionals who are also looking for work. But by focusing on networking, you open yourself up to many more opportunities than just the ones you see on job boards or those being offered at your local job fair. I truly feel that there are only six degrees of separation between everyone in the world—or at the very least the U.S. Every time you make a new connection, you get that much closer to getting your dream job.”