As you get older, you start to realize that your dreams of living Carrie Bradshaw’s life straight out of college are a little… unrealistic. From post-collegiette horror stories to the all-too-real scenarios in Girls, you know that scoring a job is rough. However, there is one thing that can help you—connections. You may roll your eyes when someone lectures about the importance of networking, but that’s just because you know it’s true. But what’s a girl to do when she feels as if she has no connections in her desired industry? Cry? Absolutely not! Instead of having a quarter-life crisis, it’s time to get creative when reaching out to people.
While reaching out to people may seem intimidating, it’s crucial to utilize your networking skills. Though they can’t promise you your dream job, you’ll be surprised to see where your connections can take you!
1. Your Parents’ Friends
Though you may have despised those ever-so boring adult functions when you were in elementary school, that’s about to change. Not only is it your duty as a mature collegiette to partake in cultural and sophisticated chats with your elders, these events are also the perfect job hunting grounds. “My father got his start after graduation through the help of one of my grandfather’s friends who was the head minister of the governmental association that my dad stills work for,” says Kristen Pye from McGill University. “Not through string-pulling on behalf of my grandfather, but by his own success at impressing his eventual boss during a casual chat.”
The first step of mastering this tactic is to be outgoing—nobody will see you as professional if your parents are networking for you! Once you’ve found a wonderful person to talk to (e.g., your mom’s college roommate), don’t be afraid to ask her what she does for a living. Chances are she’ll ask you about your major and career aspirations. Take this opportunity to express how passionate you are about your future. If your conversation buddy seems to have a connection or two in your desired field, ask for their friend’s email and mention that you’d like to keep in touch. After a couple of emails, feel free to ask your new connection to hook you up with that TV producer you’re dying to meet. Having their email allows you to take the reins on the fate of your career.
If you are extremely lucky and are talking to someone who’s working in the industry you’re interested in, ask them if you could shadow them for a day or stop by for an informational interview—and keep your word! Not only are you showing off your potential, you’re also proving that you value small opportunities. Who wouldn’t want to help someone they know who’s also enthusiastic and proactive?
2. Your Friends’ Parents
From driving you places during those pre-license days to letting you crash at their house, your friend’s parents have always been there for you. Now that you’re older, wiser, and employable, it’s time to see if they have any work connections. Instead of blatantly asking them to connect you with a hedge fund hot shot or beg them for a job, start off by mentioning the stressful job hunt. Once they know what industry you’re interested in, ask them to let you know if they hear of anything. Since these are your friend’s parents, it’s important to be assertive but not too overbearing—you don’t want them to think you’re purely using them for their connections (formerly their driver’s license).
If they work in your desired industry (bonus points), ask them if you could sit with them and pick their brain. This way, you’re being proactive and not pressuring them to give you a job. Though you can casually ask for updates over the course of a couple months, you still need to be that polite girl that pals around with their son or daughter. But what if you haven’t known your friend’s parents since your bike had training wheels? Have your friend act as the middleman. “The go-between needs to make the introduction so it’s not a cold connection when you get in touch,” says Joyce Rogers, a career services coordinator at Boston University’s College of Communication. “Then you can follow up however they say how to do it.” With their son or daughter’s stamp of approval, how could their parents not help you out? FYI, you can also reach out to your friend’s older brothers or sisters.
3. Your Professors
Not only are your professors a wealth of knowledge, they’re also fabulous career middlemen. As crazy as it sounds, most of your professors had a plethora of other industry-related jobs before their gig at your alma mater. Let’s not forget that they may still be in contact with successful post-grads who are former students of theirs. For optimal effectiveness, reach out to a professor from your major. Instead of talking to a professor you barely know, it’s important to contact teachers who know you well. After all, they can vouch for your enthusiasm, work ethic and talent. “Find them on LinkedIn, send them a message, or go and visit them in their offices,” says Rogers. “Ask them for their suggestions and advice. They’re an amazing resource!”
Even if they don’t know of any job openings at the moment, feel free to ask them about tips and tricks for entering the big, bad world of employment. Since they know what the job search is like, it’s appropriate to follow up throughout your search.
4. Past Internship Supervisors
Confession time: you didn’t spend your past two summers as free labor just for the experience. Deep down, you wanted to meet people who could help you find a job in the future. Not only do your former supervisors have a plethora of contacts, they also know the trials and tribulations of looking for a job. Translation? This connection is absolutely essential. Hopefully, you’ve kept in touch with some of your supervisors so reaching out to them won’t be disrespectful and random. Shoot them an email asking if there are any openings at their company or if they’ve heard of any other job opportunities in the industry. Since you’ve already impressed them with your stellar intern skills, your old supervisors know what you’re capable of and can give you an awesome recommendation. Let’s not forget that recommendations are just as important as connections!
5. Former Guest Speakers From Classes or Clubs
Remember when your marketing class had that guest speaker in lieu of a normal lecture? Or what about when that local newspaper editor participated in a panel discussion held by your favorite on-campus club? Unleash your networking skills by reaching out to these contacts! Virginia Ashe, a student at Boston University, reached out to a professional that she had met at a BU fashion event. “I approached him after the event and told him a little about myself and about my aspirations in the fashion industry,” says Virginia. “He gave me his business card and told me to contact him for any internship opportunities.” If this doesn’t say, “Ask and you shall receive,” we don’t know what does! Because she maintained this connection, Virginia found out about (and scored) an internship at Diane von Furstenberg.
Though internships are a little easier to find (it seems like every company secretly loves free labor), reaching out to former lecturers is absolutely imperative when searching for a job. Note to all collegiettes: introduce yourself to these people! Simply saying you enjoyed their time and asking for contact information is a great start. After meeting them, don’t forget to email this professional so they remember exactly who you are. “It’s also important to keep them updated with career changes,” says Virginia. “I updated my contact on my professional life and current aspirations, reminded him on why I liked DVF and why I wanted to work there.”
Once you’re ready to begin the job hunt, email them again and ask if they know of any job openings in their company. What’s the worst that can happen? They’ll say no and then it’s back to square one—no pain, no gain! If this contact can put a face with an email address, they’ll be more compelled to help you out.
6. Sorority Sisters
Let’s play word association, shall we? When you hear the word “sorority,” you think of… connections! Well, most of you probably don’t; however, it’s about time you start viewing your sisters as awesome friends and networking opportunities. With a variety of different backgrounds, hometowns, and interests, think of your sorority as a pool of opportunities. When it comes to your sisters, it’s fine to ask them point blank about connections. Chances are they’re stressing out about jobs too, and maybe you even know someone who could help their job search. Before you get in touch with their contact, make sure it’s okay to use them as your reference. Nobody wants an awkward situation!
If none of your current sisters have appropriate connections, see what your sorority’s alumni are up to. Don’t be afraid to email them about meeting up for coffee—just remember to mention the sorority. After all, that’s what sisters are for!
7. Your College’s Alumni
Is it just me or does hearing about successful college alumni give you a dash of optimism? You also must be wondering how they went from a collegiette at your alma mater to having an amazing career. How about you ask them yourself? Most colleges have alumni databases online, a.k.a. you can find a potential contact with a couple clicks. If your school doesn’t have an online database or you can’t find what you’re looking for, head down to your school’s career services center. “I know a lot of people so I will email alumni to make connections and ask their permission to connect with you or email them,” says Rogers.
So you have a connection, now what? Start some email correspondence. Tell your contact that you went to their alma mater and would love to get together with them to talk about how their college experience helped their career. This tactic proves that the collegiette (or colle-gent) connection surpasses graduation.
8. Your College’s Career Center
Though this may seem pretty obvious to a lot of collegiettes, some of you may forget that it’s their job to find you a job. Not only do career counselors help connect you with some alumni, they can also tell you what to expect in the world of employment. “We work on a daily basis with employers so the advice we give to students is directly related to what we hear from employers about what they’re looking for,” says Kelly Forde, a career services coordinator at Boston University’s College of Communication. “We also research the latest employment trends so we can help students make the most informed decisions about where to look.”
Sounds tempting? Make an appointment with your career services center so your counselor can put a face to the name. So you’re golden after that one meeting, right? Nope! The more appointments you make with your counselor, the more they’ll think of you if they hear of a job opening at your dream company.
9. Professionals You Admire
So what if you don’t have the ultimate connection to your desired industry? Are you supposed to freak out and kiss your dream job goodbye? Absolutely not! Collegiettes, it’s time to (wo)man up and make your own contacts. When Yasmeen Gharnit, a student at Boston University, was looking for a magazine internship, she hit the glossy pages! Yasmeen asked to meet editors for an informational interview. Her motivation led Yasmeen to a plethora of contacts and an internship at Nylon. “I do not have any family or friend connections into the industry, so it definitely helped to make my own connections and foster a relationship with the associate feature editor,” says Yasmeen.
With a little bit of research and a lot of ambition, contacting these professionals can be as easy as checking out magazine mastheads and connecting with them on LinkedIn. “Send them a short message that says you’ll be working in their industry and would like to connect with them,” says Rogers. “Once they connect with you—and they usually will—start sending more detailed messages.”
Thank them for connecting with you and get them involved in helping you by asking them for advice. If this tactic can work when finding an internship, it’s a must for the good ‘ol job search!
The important thing about this tactic is to never blatantly ask for a job—you’re here to pick their brain about the industry, not for a formal interview. Allow the conversation to be organic. If you asked to meet with them to chat about their career, chances are that your career will be brought up. If the conversation is simply not heading that way, change the subject and ask about how difficult the job search process was for them. Instead of forcing your resume on your new contact, ask them if they have any pieces of advice or know of any companies that are hiring. Just don’t forget to maintain these relationships—thank them for their time with an email and stay in touch. “I’ve heard from another editor that 90 percent of internship positions are given to people who have connections to a certain publication, so it’s also important to keep that in mind,” says Yasmeen. With those statistics, how could you not take matters into your own hands?
Let’s not forget the most important part about utilizing these connections—saying thank you. Even if they don’t help you snag the job of your dreams, it’s crucial to thank them for their time and effort, plus they might be able to help you out in the future. Nobody likes a user! Once you’ve made some invaluable connections, the rest is up to you. As an employable collegiette, it’s up to you to be persistent and motivated. Oh, and wow them with your awesome interviewing skills. While nothing is definite until you are officially offered a job, these connections will make the job search a little less stressful.