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College Students: 3 Easy Ways to Expand your Network

December 18, 2014

Graduating college students who are planning their job search have almost certainly been given the advice to “start with their network.” Some know they can turn to their parents, their friends’ parents or other friends and family members to begin their job search process. However, for many graduating students, a network is something they believe they do not possess, so they disregard the idea of networking entirely in their hunt for a job.

If you’re a graduating student and fear you don’t have a network, do not sell yourself short. As hiring experts from Jobipedia explain, building and growing your network can be as easy as the following three simple and quick steps.

Realize that everyone you know is your network

Before you think your professional network doesn’t exist, take a few moments and consider someone that has influenced or helped you in your life. This person could be an ideal starting point for you to begin networking. Chris, a hiring manager from Schwan Food Company who contributes to Jobipedia said, “You can begin networking with friends, former teachers, coaches, mentors, church groups, or any contact/person you may know.

Yes, it’s true that coach or friendly neighbor may not be connected directly with your field or industry. But they may have a friend or colleague that could help you. A Jobipedia contributor and hiring manager named Carrie from AT&T said, “[T]he key to networking isn't that you will connect with the person directly who may hire you, but connect with other people who will network for you!” This is the terrific thing about networking – you never know where it will lead, but it is guaranteed to lead you somewhere.

All you need to do is ask for some help and guidance. People are willing to help and they won’t be offended if you reach out and ask. The worst that could happen is they’ll either ignore you or tell you they don’t think they can help. Nicole, a Jobipedia contributor and hiring manager from ManpowerGroup, said, “Look at it this way, if someone approached you and asked you for help would you be offended? Most people like to help others and are happy to do what they can.

Join student groups or volunteer

If you’re not already, get involved in a student group on campus. Your academic adviser can provide some insight, or your school’s career office can give some guidance on a group you may want to consider joining. These are great ways to connect not only with like-minded people, but also alumni. A hiring manager named Megan from Cardinal Health who contributes to Jobipedia said, “Getting involved in campus student groups, professional trade associations and volunteer organizations is a fantastic way to meet people with similar interests as well as build your network.

You can also build your network by volunteering with a non-profit that interests you. This doesn’t mean you need to make a yearlong commitment or commit entire months to volunteering (if you can though, that’s great). When you have some free time, go and volunteer. This could connect you with someone that has or knows of an opportunity.

Join Groups on LinkedIn

The third quick way to build your network is to utilize LinkedIn. The purpose of LinkedIn is to connect with people professionally, so don’t fear using it that way.

Review company career pages and follow companies you may want to work for. Join Group pages that interest you and engage in conversations. A Jobipedia contributor and hiring manager named Steve from Caterpillar, Inc. said, “Try to search for those groups that are applicable to what you want to do and request to join them. Once in the group, you have the ability to send messages to the other group members, which could be the beginning of your actual networking efforts.” As always, keep comments professional. Your LinkedIn profile and activity may be the first impression a recruiter or hiring manager reviews, so don’t put anyone off by posting something inappropriate.

It’s unlikely a Hollywood movie director will walk by you on the street and ask you to be the star of their next film. Remember, networking starts with putting yourself out there and letting people know you’re on the job hunt. So use one or all three of these suggested approaches and you can start expanding your network today.

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Contributor Response to Wall Street Journal's Article "To My Fellow Job-Hunting College Seniors" published on March 17, 2014 by David Pierce