By: Danielle Fahey
The job search after college is nothing short of maddening. You’re faced with endless applications, stressful interviews, and fierce competition. And even though you may have once felt that life would be easy once you receive that shiny diploma, you’re starting to freak out as graduation gets closer. You might look at others around you – those who already have guaranteed jobs making bank (ugh), those who are actively on the interview scene, or those who are sending resumes in every direction possible.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably a proud English or liberal arts major who’s dedicated to the fruits of academic knowledge and passionate about a field of study. (We’re pretty great.) But we’ve all heard the joke of 20-something philosophy majors flipping burgers, and you might be worried that McDonald’s has a nametag saved for you already. So what’s a liberal arts major to do?
Network. It’s a concept of the job search that often gets overlooked even at some college career centers, but it serves as one of the most important parts of reaching important career goals after graduation. Networking, as defined by the Business Dictionary, is “creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit. [Networking] is based on the question of ‘How can I help?’ and not with ‘What can I get?’” What exactly does all of that mean? Well, the best way to understand networking is to break down the definition into parts.
The first part is “creating a group of acquaintances and associates.” When you start working for a company, you’re of course going to get to know the people on your team. You’ll accomplish goals with your higher-ups and brainstorm with your fellow colleagues every day on the job. But believe it or not, you can actually get to know your co-workers even before you start your first day of work. You just have to network beforehand. Now, this isn’t to say that if you network with associates from the same company that you’ll automatically be offered a job, but it’s a great way to stand out amongst the sea of applicants. Even if you don’t have one exact company in mind, make a tentative list. Figure out what opportunities are available and see if there are any job fairs coming up. Email employees. Ask questions about company values and inward growth. Smile, shake hands, and always thank them for their time. Make the interest be about them rather than yourself. You’ll be surprised at what a simple introduction can do!
The second part of the equation is “keeping [your group] active through regular communication.” This is another important portion of networking that students often forget. If you meet up with someone once (and you like them) it’s very important to follow up, be it with an email, phone call, etc., just to thank them for any information they gave you and request to keep in touch. This method of communication with potential employers shows that you actually care about those connections and want to develop relationships with others that go beyond just finding a job. Next time you head to a networking event, ask for business cards, and follow up with a quick email. They always love to hear about interest from prospective employees!
The last (but definitely not least) part is the idea of mutual benefit. When you network, it’s important to keep in mind that networking isn’t just for yourself. It’s a two-way street designed to provide career growth and business advancement for both parties. Employers shouldn’t take part in networking only to cater to one individual’s needs – they have to get something out of it, too! So when you practice your networking skills, think about how those actions will benefit both yourself and the employer, and this will help you develop professionally and become a highly sought-after candidate for job opportunities!
Between all the resume writing workshops and pages of online job listings, remember that networking is just as important to kickstart your career. Regardless of major and regardless of what field you’re interested in, there are tons of opportunities to network with potential employers. And since 80% of college graduates land their first job through networking, nothing should stop you from taking that next step!