This time of year, many graduates are seeking advice on how to go about conducting an effective job search. In the Master of Science in Business Analysis program at Catholic University, we teach a course in Career Development where our students learn the tools and strategy of finding that first job to launch their career. One of the areas that Professor Kristen Rompf emphasizes is the importance of networking. We all know about social networks so let’s extend that same thinking to our professional network.
Here is some basic advice from that course that I emphasize with graduates. First of all, don't be shy about asking for help. The world runs on networks today. You wouldn't think of disconnecting from your cyber networks so consider your human capital networks just as important. And know that people want to help you. Many students are reluctant to ask for advice, contacts, and interviews. Don't be. And be aware that how you ask is just as important and a well phrased question will lead to better results.
Give your network helper a specific context, e.g. I'd like to be an analyst in the financial services sector, I'd like to consult in the Health Care industry, I want to be a buyer for a major retail department store. Now, that person’s mental Rolodex opens up and names and faces start to appear to them. “Yes, I have a friend in that industry, my wife's friend is in that industry, let me put you in touch with my financial adviser, I just read an article about that, I saw a linked in profile”...and the list and images go on and on.
I find many students think of a network in terms of only direct connections. If you have a degree in business and your neighbor back home is a nuclear physicist, you might think there is no reason to ask them for advice. This is a big miss in my view. Think of your network as a spider web, not a straight line. Your nuclear physicist neighbor has a cousin in another city (other side of the web) that is in the exact position and industry you are interested in (three rings removed from her); or a college roommate, sibling, best friend of their spouse...the possibilities, and the network are endless.
Another common misconception I find is that students sometimes assume their network acquaintances are mind readers. My neighbor knows I just graduated with a business degree so if they had a good contact they would have told me. Is your job search top of mind for your neighbor? Probably not but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to help if asked. So don't assume anything, ask very direct questions, do you know anyone in this field I can talk to about the industry, how they broke into it and will be willing to offer me advice (and maybe a job!).
What other ideas do folks have to develop a winning network strategy? Finding a job is a job. Get up, get dressed, go to work. And good luck! With a strategy, perseverance and patience, you will be successful.
Professor Stewart McHie
Program Director, MSBA