TAO Self-help

Title:Professional networking differences, how executives and recent graduates go about their job search


Date:April 2014

Source:Reprinted with Permission: HRNASTY.com

When I talk with recent graduates about where they are finding their job leads, I hear the usual suspects: Indeed, Monster, Craigslist, etc.

When I ask sr. management and executive friends, I hear their usual suspects: friends, personal and professional networks, professional groups/associations, etc.

See the difference? I don't remember the last executive we hired that came through a job posting. I also don't know the last time we hired a recent graduate via a referral. The latter does happen, but not too often.

We have all heard that if you want to find a job, you should network, network and network. What I realized after talking with a number of recent graduates is that many candidates do not understand the subtleties of how to network.

What professional networking isn't:

Here is a typical networking scenario that I experience with recent graduates. I receive an email or text like; I hear you helped Johnny land a great job and got him good money; can you do the same for me? Can we meet? (usually at a location convenient to the graduate and no offer to buy me coffee and cookie). This isn't bitterness you hear in my voice. Don't worry, I do run into the occasional young person that gives me hope for the future, but usually it boils down to the following:

  • Young person in jeans and a t-shirt. No hint of business casual or even the ability to suit up.
  • "I am looking for a job."
  • "Here is my resume." We share a copy for the rest of the meeting.
  • "What should I do?"

This is not just "what I get", this is "all I get". It may sound harsh and unbelievable but you would be surprised how often the initial conversation boils down to the above.

I ask a few questions:

  • How can I help?
  • What do you want to walk away with at the end of this meeting?
  • What kind of job/internship/introductions are you looking for?
  • What size company?
  • What vertical or industry excites you?
  • How much do you want to make?

I get blank stares, a shrug of the shoulders or an "I don't know". I quickly realize asking more questions isn't going to get me much to work with. The scary thing is that the candidate doesn't recognize there is a problem.

No one sat this kid down and showed them how to demonstrate "effort", "interest", or "effort". Yeah, I said "effort" twice.

The executive networking experience

When I meet an executive, I may or may not have a position open. 95% of the time I do not, but this doesn't matter. Good executives are always networking.

Meeting new people in your industry is ALWAYS a good thing. You receive the opportunity to learn about new ideas, new technologies and yes, new job openings. All managers want confidence that their team is networking.

How it usually happens: I receive an introduction email from a friend or acquaintance. You never know where the next candidate will come from and it doesn't cost me anything to listen. The email introduction provides background on why I should meet and is more like - "two people meeting over coffee" vs. this is a candidate for your open position or "you should hire this person".

There is a difference in these two pitches. The person I'm meeting isn't looking for "a job". Rather they are looking for the right fit. They are not going to try and squeeze into any job because they are confidant of their skill set. They know what they want, they know where they will be successful, and more importantly, they know the type of environment that will breed success, or failure for them.

This networker will do a number of things a recent grad will not, including:

  • Sets up a meeting a few days in advance. They aren't giving any indication of being last minute or desperate.
  • Respond quickly to email, phone and texts. I won't have to wait more than 12-hours for a response.
  • The meeting place will be convenient to me.
  • The exec will arrive early, and appropriately dressed, AKA business casual.
  • A resume may or may not be forwarded before our meeting. No one will pull out a resume in the face to face.
  • Ask specific questions about the company that will usually be confirmations of what was already researched. The exec wants to reinforce that they've done their homework.
  • I will receive a timely thank you email/text.
  • Over time, I will receive follow up emails where articles and news updates are shared. Just enough to let me know I'm being thought of. In a single word, "effort".

Compare the two styles. The executive demonstrates effort. The college grad barely shows up. The executive is taking control of their destiny. The college grad is thinking entitlement.

Like anything that will get you ahead, networking takes practice and building a network takes time.

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