Career Planning Expert’s Tip of the Month – October

Counter-Intuitive Career Building: Making the Most of Everyday Contacts

We’ve all heard the insufferable phrase: it’s not about what you know; it’s about who you know. If this statement is true, it seems a little counter-intuitive to even bother with college.

Even after years of education and training for the professional world, knowledge has nothing to do with your professional success?

Who You Know vs. What You Know:
You can’t be ignorant about the human body and become a doctor. Qualifications are still an important step. But if you have appropriate knowledge and training for your field of interest, knowing the right people could mean the difference between a mediocre career and a great career.

What NOT to do:
Who are these infamous ‘people’ and where do you meet them? That is the tricky part. So many professionals give up on networking because they are so focused on starting at the top to make that life-changing connection. They believe that if they want a job as a film editor, they need to run into George Lucas at Starbucks or some other fortuitous meeting. Not true.

Get to Know your Neighbors:
It might seem counter-intuitive, but the secret to making great contacts is to leverage the contacts you already have. The people you know are dentists, doctors, real estate agents, insurance agents, plumbers, church secretaries, even stay-at-home moms that used to work in Corporate America. How can a restaurateur possibly help you take your career to the next level?

Marketing yourself to these people has several advantages. Because they aren’t interviewers or heavy-hitters in your desired industry, you feel less pressure and can engage them in a more natural, confident way. These encounters are also great practice for interviews and high-powered connections. Most of all, these relationships are important because often the most unlikely person will make a life-changing connection for you.

Real estate agents are perfect examples of everyday contacts with great potential. Everybody knows a real estate agent and for aspiring agents or mortgage brokers, real estate agents are prime contacts. But let’s say that you’re looking for a position as a graphic designer. Almost everyone has either bought or sold a home at some point in their lives, regardless of their profession, meaning real estate agents have wide ranging contacts that transcend industry barriers. You never know, your agent’s last sale might be a leader in your desired industry.

How to Prepare:
The truth is that it doesn’t matter how two people are connected. Whether it’s a professional or personal relationship, you might already know someone that has a potentially great contact for you. With that, you want to make the most of every encounter and take care to present yourself well to each and every person you meet.

Always engage contacts in a professional and courteous way to make it easy for them to recommend you to a friend. Also, don’t ask them to remember who you are, what you want to do, and how to get in touch with you. If you don’t have a business card or it isn’t appropriate to pass it along, get a personal networking card with a personal email and phone number. Also, make a habit of giving new connections more than one so that they have one card to keep and one or two to give away.

Get the Job the Counterintuitive Way:
Going against the grain is a great way to get ahead in this world. It seems odd, but there are no contacts too small or too irrelevant. Market yourself to each person you meet as if you were interviewing with the employer of your dreams. You might be surprised to see where you’ll find your next big break.

~The Résumé Girl, Lauren Hasson, College Planning Expert, Campus Calm

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