While finding the ideal company as a recent college graduate may feel daunting, it can be equally as fulfilling if approached strategically and honestly. Strategy concerns how one will leverage their personal, social, and professional capital. Honesty is the imperative agent that allows one to be confident in their elucidated core and diversified skillset. If one is honest, not only with their potential employers, but more importantly, with themselves, they will be more likely to find a professional environment in which they can grow and excel. Naturally, this sense of honesty must be expressed when discussing qualifications and past experiences, but it must also surround the opportunities you choose to pursue. In other words, opportunities that ignite passion, align with your work style, and innately showcase your capital should be of the highest priority when job hunting. In order to identify these opportunities, you have to be transparent with yourself about your own passions, strengths, workplace tendencies, and capital.
Strategy and honesty are integral not only as they relate to the stakeholder job hunting approach of finding a professional in your industry with whom you have no connection to, but more importantly, as they pertain to the social capital and college affiliated approaches of using friends, family, advisors, professors, and peers to find a company in your target market.
The True Value of Your Network
There are always components of exploration and self-discovery that come with expressing your capital to prospective employers and connections at the genesis and early stages of a job search. I have experienced this on a personal level, not only within my interviews and exchanges with potential employers, but also during conversations with friends, family, and other connections. I came to realize that the “why?” is always the most important question surrounding interactions of this nature. Firstly, why am I reaching out to those in my network? You may think the answer is simply to find a career. Truthfully, I held the same notion to be accurate for some time. It was not until I realized that my network could teach me more about myself as a professional – or at least guide me on a path towards acquiring this knowledge – that I began to understand the immense value that my family, friends, and other connections truly have. After all, those who are closest to you have observed you grow and adapt for decades. It can be an arduous task to entirely know oneself. With that being said, the view is not always the same from the passenger’s seat as it is from the driver’s seat. That is to say, your connections will most likely have suggestions for you devised from what they already know about your personality and inclinations.
Always Start From the Inside
Think of your network as square one of your job search. It is always best to start with those you know and trust. Starting on websites like Monster or Indeed can prove to be tedious because “if in a wider competition among strangers, you [must] do a lot of networking and marketing,” however, “in a close-knit community you follow the opposite direction.” In other words, the need to network and market becomes less intense when a sense of familiarity and trust has already been set in place.
If you are like me, you may be hesitant to reach out to your network at first. I have always been an independent individual, and seeking out opportunities through one’s network is simply not an independent endeavor. If you can relate to this sentiment, the first step to utilizing your network is to recognize that they will almost always want to help you with your job search. At the very least, they can most provide advice or tidbits that will refine your search. Furthermore, try to think of your conversations with your connections as collaborations rather than favors. If you are prepared, you will have insightful information to contribute that will make these interactions more stimulating for both parties.
Remember, those you confide in have been in the exact same position as you (unless they are a peer who is also starting their job search.) This tends to mean that they will be compelled to share information they would have wanted to know at the start of their own job search. This type of information is exceedingly valuable, seeing as it was born from real-life experience involving trial and error.
Preparing to Speak with Your Connections
The second step is to identify what you want to achieve out of each interaction with each connection. Before you speak with a friend or family member about your career path, write down what you know about their professional life. Do some research on their background so that “when you do ask for something, for example information about a person’s job or industry, ask for the person’s opinion on what you’ve learned, rather than asking him or her to explain it all to you.” This will make the conversation less one-sided and gives your connection a cohesive point to respond to.
Here are some questions to consider before conversing with your connections: How has their industry compared to other industries they have worked in? What passion do they have that is fulfilled by their career? Who might they be connected to within industries that you are interested in? What are their opinions on your prospects knowing what they know about you as a young professional? Keep in mind, these questions should NOT be phrased in a “what do you have to offer me?” tone, but rather, a relational fashion that conveys interest and respect in your connection’s journey. This should come naturally as it pertains to your most meaningful connections. After all, if you are using your network strategically and honestly, you will have the strong desire to identify career elements through your connections that align with your core.
About the Author
Noah Larson graduated from Bridgewater State University in 2020, receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in Communications with a focus in Communication and Culture. He is currently the Social Media Manager for The Learning Landscape, a small business that helps students with developmental disabilities conquer their academic goals.