Job Search Expert’s Tip of the Month – October

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Are you really networking?

Every young candidate with whom I speak tells me they are “networking” in order to land an internship or entry-level job. But are you really? It seems to me there is a huge misconception about what constitutes networking.

The overall goal of networking is to create a two-way, mutually beneficial relationship. Just because you follow someone on Twitter, read their blog, friend them on Facebook, etc. does not mean you are reaching that end goal. Networking must go behind that initial meeting—whether online or offline—and satisfy both parties involved in order to truly be successful.

Many people follow me on Twitter, connect with me on LinkedIn and of course, read my column! While I realize it’s my role to serve as a guide and mentor to young professionals (and I wouldn’t change that for anything), I wonder how often they think they’re networking with me. I think about this because I often only hear from students and recent graduates once—when they need me to introduce them to one of my hiring manager contacts or solve their career-related dilemma.

Please don’t take this as being about me—it’s really not. I see it as an underlying issue about networking itself. Perhaps young professionals feel they don’t have anything to offer in return. Not true at all, by the way! Although everyone’s different, here is what I feel I gain in a two-way relationship with young professionals:

• Current needs of young internship and entry-level job seekers—what is missing from your search?
• Success stories—once I’ve helped you, will I ever hear the “moral of the story”?
• Knowledge of new products and services I might not have been aware of before or simply didn’t know how to use (an intern taught me how to send text messages this summer!)
• Good reads—I love to read but rarely have time, so I’m always open to books that come highly recommended

The list could go on and on, but hopefully you get the picture.

Perhaps you just don’t know how to properly manage your network. I know quite a few people, thanks in no small part to social media. Although I’m still playing around with it, I recommend checking out Gist, which allows you to keep all of your contacts from all of your networks in one place.

Whatever the reason might be that you have this construed idea about successful networking, I encourage you to make a plan for moving forward—start with a clean slate. Reintroduce yourself to people you’ve met, and ask what you can do for them. I think you’ll be surprised by the number of responses! One of the golden rules of networking: build relationships first and ask for favors second.

~ Heather Huhman, Job Search Expert, Campus Calm

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