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Consultant, entrepreneur offers tips to help grads find their dream job

Networking key to finding the right job

(Aug. 12, 2015) — Alaina G. Levine, an entrepreneur and public speaking and leadership training consultant, has “10 Tips to Help 2015 Grads Find a Job They’ll Love.” She says the secret to success can well lie in who you know, or who you can get to know.

Alaina G. Levine
Alaina G. Levine

“Of all the tools in your job-search toolbox, networking should be at the very top of your to-do list,” Levine said. “Networking is so critically important because it gives you access to jobs and other career-advancing opportunities that are not always advertised. As many as 90 percent of jobs are ‘hidden’ and are obtained solely through networking.”

Levine explains that networking (which encompasses appropriate self-promotion) makes one known to decision-makers who, once they become aware of the new skills before them, can engage the grad as an employee. Not only will these individuals think of the new skill-holder first for an opening on their team; they may even create a job specifically for them based on their singular value proposition.

That said, Levine acknowledges that the thought of networking makes many people extremely nervous—especially recent grads who are making professional connections for the first time. That’s where Networking for Nerds comes in. In this step-by-step guide, Levine offers concrete insight on crafting professional networks that are mutually beneficial and that support the advancement of your career goals.

Here, are 10 things she said to keep in mind as you begin to make career-enhancing connections:

  • Recognize your value to prospective employers. You’ve gained a list of marketable skills over the course of pursuing your degree. Participating in extracurricular activities, internships, philanthropic opportunities, and even personal endeavors (like planning a family reunion) have taught you a lot, too. Levine says Step One on the road to finding a job should be making a list of all these activities and noting the skills you used to be successful in each.
  • Get specific about what you can (and want to) do. Some candidates take a scattershot approach to finding a job by applying to every open position they see. But Levine advises a more targeted strategy. Before launching your job search campaign, sketch out the broad outlines of the career you’d like to have by asking yourself questions like, What skills do I have that I enjoy using? What tasks do I enjoy doing?
  • Get real about who desires you. Your degree title does not necessarily determine your job path. The fact that your degree is in sociology doesn’t mean you can only be a social worker, and a degree in physics doesn’t mean the only positions you can fill must have the word “physicist” in the title. Many jobs and industries hire people not because of their degrees but due to all of the skills and abilities they acquired while learning that subject. The point is, your career opportunities are much more expansive than what your advisor may have told you.
  • Organize and update your marketing materials. Whether you’re networking or going after a job via the conventional application route, your résumé, cover letters, brand statements, business card, and/or LinkedIn profile and other social media site content need to be ready to go. “Keep these important materials up-to-date as you prepare to ‘market’ yourself to potential employers and collaborators,” Levine says.
  • Invest in and get comfortable wearing the proper attire. You will need professional garments to wear to interviews and to networking events. Like it or not, people do judge books by their covers. The good news is, there’s no need to spend $500 for a suit. Levine recommends shopping at discount stores like T.J. Maxx or Marshalls where you can get quality suiting for a song and reveals that she recently bought a brand new suit at JC Penney for $40.
  • Tidy up your online presence… Whether you are reaching out to a person for an informal conversation or applying for a job (or even if you’ve just met a potential contact at the gym), the first thing the other party is going to do is Google you. Then he or she will look at your LinkedIn profile. If social media contains any photos of you drunk on the beach in Mexico, or rants on blogs concerning politics and religion, now is the time to remove them.
  • …Then actively utilize social media, especially LinkedIn. LinkedIn is considered to be THE professional marketplace, so it is vital that you be present there and be seen as an active contributor. Join and be active in relevant groups: observe, contribute, and connect with members and demonstrate your commitment to the field. Do keyword searches for jobs, people, and organizations and use the “Find Alumni” tab. See “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” and if someone you especially want to connect with has done so, invite them to connect and let them know you noticed that they have looked at your profile.
  • Look for opportunities to demonstrate your brand. You want to share with the world what you do, how you do it, and how it can help them. This is the essence of networking and appropriate self-promotion. So seek out opportunities to spotlight your brand and demonstrate how you can solve problems for others. Even as a new grad, you can and should appropriately promote yourself. Levine recommends that you start by looking to speak at conferences, regionally-based chapters and meetings, business organizations, and mixers.
  • Engage in high-impact networking. To get the most bang for your networking buck, look for networking “nodes” where high numbers of people aggregate. Networking nodes include events, professional societies, conferences, websites, and even individual people themselves. (Here’s a tip: Identify people you would like to network with on Twitter and see who is following them!)
  • Tap into your institution’s career resources. Even if you have already graduated, your alma mater’s career center may still be open to alums. It will have job listings, of course, but it may also offer professional development webinars and host networking affairs in concert with the alumni association (which you should definitely join). If one is available, scroll through the alumni directory to find fellow alums with whom you can network and have informal conversations.