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, a junior at McGill University and HC contributing writer. “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 junior 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.