A panicked college senior at University of Michigan, my alma mater, contacted me recently.
Dear Ms. Cheston,
I’m graduating in May and have been applying for jobs with nothing to show for it. I’ve completed over 100 online applications and haven’t received one call back.
I don’t have connections and neither does anybody in my family. I will have student loans to pay and can’t afford to be without a job after graduation. I’m at my wits’ end. Can you help?
You may not realize that graduating seniors have a secret weapon – everybody wants to help a new grad starting out! Here’s my specific advice on building your network quickly and easily and how to enlist the contacts you didn’t know you had in supporting your search.
- You already have a network: your classmates and college alumni who stand ready to help you as you dip your toe into the (cruel) real world. Search for them on LinkedIn where you can narrow your search by sector and location. Or ask the career office for a list of alumni, sorted by sector and location.
- Consider your other affiliations: your fraternity, club sports team or interest group. Your Facebook groups can also be helpful. Greek affiliation in particular can be as strong as school spirit, regardless of graduation year. So again, using LinkedIn, narrow your search to include your fraternity brothers from every school and year, in the cities where you’re concentrating your job search.
- When you reach out, do ask for specific help. This is not the time to throw a lot of detail at people, or indicate that you are “open to anything”. Instead, provide 2-3 job titles and up to 10 companies, and ask your contacts if they know anyone at those companies. That’s it. Anything more is overwhelming and you will end up with a meaningless response like, “I’ll let you know if I hear of anything”.
Also, don’t forget that applying to jobs online without having a human being shepherd your application is a recipe for failure. It’s fine to apply online, but make sure you network your way to someone at the company who can help make sure your application gets read – and not just rejected by the Applicant Tracking System for reasons unknown.
Good luck in your search! And let me know if I can help.
P.S. For a case study on how to find a job out of college without experience or connections, read this.