Have you recently graduated from college? Are you still searching for a job in this economy? What is the one advice that everyone tells you to do? Network. Network. And network some more! 63% of people find jobs by tapping their network of friends, family members, and acquaintances. How about those who send out 500 resumes and cover letters? Only 2% of people find their job by sending out unsolicited resumes and emails to company recruiters. As you can see, networking is the key to success. Begin by cultivating your contacts. Whether that is reaching out to your friends who have already graduated or family members working in the industry you are interested in, start building a wide range of contacts. The more people you know, the easier it gets. The following are 5 key points for successful networking:

Build a LinkedIn Profile

Your LinkedIn profile is the best place to showcase your greatest success and future aspirations. Show off your skills, highlight your experiences, and identify your goals. LinkedIn’s mission is to “connect the world’s professionals with one another to make them more productive and successful.” Unlike other forms of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn seeks to establish professional relationships and build professional networks. Therefore, an increasing number of recruiters are using LinkedIn as their primary source for recruiting candidates. It’s important to create a profile with your picture, a list of your prior experiences, and a summary of your skills and goals. But LinkedIn is much more than creating your profile. Rather, it is a tool to engage with your network. Tap your alumni networks. Follow your favorite companies. Post or share relevant articles. Research job opportunities. Reach out to recruiters. Take advantage of LinkedIn.

Conduct Informational Interviews

Once you have started to build up your network, start conducting informational interviews. Interested in working at Google? Find someone in your college alumni base who currently works at Google. Reach out to them, chat with them, and ask them for an informational interview. It’s a scary and daunting process. Why would they help me out? What if they don’t answer me? Yes, there is a chance they may not answer. But why not try it out? What is there to lose? Chances are that they will answer. Knowing someone who works at the company is a critical first step to getting noticed. Before conducting each informational interview, do your research. Research the company. Research your contact. Perhaps stalking would be a bit extreme, but looking them up on LinkedIn is definitely warranted. If you are informed about the company, you’ll be able to ask intelligent and relevant questions. This is an opportunity for you to get an insider perspective on the company culture, company mission, and what it’s like to work at the company on a day-to-day basis. Even if your fellow alumni works in a different sector of the business, ask them to connect you with someone who works in your aspired sector. Gather as much information as you can, and they may even provide you with an internal referral!

Do Your Research

Whether you are conducting an informational interview or a job interview, do your research. Learn the company’s strengths and weaknesses. Learn the company’s visions and values. Learn the company’s business model. Let them know why you are interested in the company. Don’t just rattle off a list of the company’s values. Make it personally relevant. Do their goals align with yours? How can you see yourself contributing to the company? Impress potential employers with your passion for the company and the industry. As a recent graduate, you may lack relevant work experience, but highlight your transferrable skills. How can your prior experiences translate to the job for which you are applying to?

Formulate Your Goals

Many recent graduates are willing to take any job they can. Yes, it is good to keep an open mind. However, employers don’t want to see that you are applying to every open position possible. Show employers that you have clear and well-defined goals and objectives. Be specific. Establish your goals and formulate a plan of action. Pursue these goals. Ultimately, focus on the job or company that best suits you and your career goals. You may change your mind later on, but keep in mind that it is okay to change your mind.

Send Thank You Notes

Be grateful. Everyone is busy. If someone takes the time to conduct an informational interview or interview with you, send him or her a thank you email. Better yet, send him or her a handwritten thank you card. What better way to express sincere gratitude? Finally, remember to keeping sending those follow ups!

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