We've all heard that it's not what you know, it's who you know. While there is definitely truth to that, having the knowledge and skills employers are looking for is a must. What's even more important is positioning yourself to be ready when opportunity knocks.
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If you're fairly new to the job market, this may seem to be quite a challenge, especially if you're a college student hoping to be hired in your chosen industry. The good news is industries want to hire fresh talent, just like you! The bad news? There really isn't any bad news, to be honest — but that doesn't mean there's no work to be done on your part. On the contrary: The roller coaster ride has just begun. The early steps of your job search in particular will require smart work and dedication.
You could be the sharpest, smartest, most talented individual for the position, but it doesn't matter if no one else knows that! That is where who you know and who knows (about) you become important. The power of networking cannot be stressed enough.
The strength of your network is directly related to your sphere of influence. Your network will advocate for you, especially if they know what you're up to. One of the most crucial questions you can ask your network connections is "Who do you know," as in, "Who do you know who needs a marketing assistant like me?" Better yet, if there are certain companies you're interested in, be specific.
Most employers recognize they need to fill a position long before they post a job ad. The earlier you apply, the more likely you are to be hired. Being aware of the position before it even gets posted will get you noticed. Your network can help with this.
So how do you get the inside scoop? You're probably only one or two degrees of separation from your next job. Countless people (myself include) can tell you stories about how they either knew someone personally or someone in their network who connected them to an opportunity.
Bigger isn't always better, but the size of your network does matter. The more people in your network, the more resources are available to everyone in the network. Having said that, the key is being intentional regarding your connections and repeating that process to build a quality network.
Some people go about networking all wrong. They go to networking events and simply collect as many business cards as possible. Others will randomly request or accept LinkedIn invitations, just to beef up the number of connections in their network.
It is much better to have connections than to have collections. True connections will remember you, and vice versa. To create a meaningful network, remember SMART:
S: State your purpose and your intentions for the relationship.
M: Make an appointment for coffee or a short phone call.
A: Ask, "Who do you know?"
R: Reach out on occasion; this keeps you top of mind.
T: Take the time to cultivate the relationship.
SMART networking will not only increase your sphere of influence but also eventually put you in the position to be a connector as well. People form relationships with those whom they like, know, and trust. Whether you're currently an intern positioning yourself for full-time employment or climbing to the next rung of your career, you're only one or two degrees of separation away.
Reginald Jackson is an executive and leadership coach and the founder of Joyful Satisfaction Coaching.