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Top 10 Myths of Networking: De-Bunked!

By Amy Feind Reeves

The holiday season is a great time for new grads to network. But, any time of year can be as good, if you focus.

People are generally feeling more social and open during the holidays. There is a nearly constant stream of holiday or year-end events going on, from professional associations to neighborhood groups.

Thinking any of the thoughts below? Don't. Show up, be yourself, and let people know what you have to offer.

Myth #10. I don't know how to network.

This is only true if you have no friends, hobbies, or interests and your parents don't even like you that much.

Networking as a new grad is just reaching out to people and letting them know that you are interested in them and what they do. Not convinced? Read Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, which defines in detail why interested is interesting. The only difference between professional networking and just talking to people is that you need to ask for contact information and permission to stay in touch.

Myth #9. I just graduated from college -- I don't have a network.

This is just silly. You do have friends, right? And they have parents who have friends? Who in turn have neighbors with friends?

Anyone with whom you have a connection is in your network. Start asking to see if anyone knows someone in your field of interest. If so, would they be willing to talk to you?

Cast a wide net and include your alumni databases, camp friends and weird cousins. Start a spreadsheet with names, roles, contact information and dates that you reached out.

Myth #8: It's all about handing out business cards.

In fact, it's all about collecting business cards so that you can follow up with contacts later.

Having a business card is a great thing at this stage in your career, be it personal or professional. But, it's also unlikely that anyone you give it to will use it professionally.

Collect the cards and then own the relationship by following up. Waiting for someone to follow up with you is not a winning strategy.

Myth #7: A call or interview with a network connection will be a conversation and there is no need to prepare anything.

This attitude is likely going to result in the conversation being a waste of both parties' time.

Here's how to prepare:

  1. Look at both the individual's and their organization's online profile so you are well informed.
  2. Think about how your background can add value to the kind of role or organization with which this person is involved. Then...
  3. Prepare some informed questions based on what you find in (1) and (2) above. For example,

    "Your organization looks like it is doing a lot of international expansion. Are you involved in that?"

    Remember, the best questions are the ones whose answers you want to know. Ask about the other person first and only talk about your own background when invited to do so. Before the call ends, ask for ideas or recommendations.

Myth #6: I can only grow my network at networking events.

False. These are actually tough places to connect - everybody in the room comes with an agenda and helping out a new grad is likely not going to be on it.

You can grow your network on a train, in a Starbucks, or at the dentist's office.

Be yourself. Be curious. Anyone can be interested in helping you if (1) they like you, and (2) they understand what it is you would like to achieve. Fortune favors the bold.

Myth #5: My network is where I go when I need something.

This is the way to build an unsuccessful network. Instead, treat your connections like prized assets. If something changes for you, reach out and let them know. Perhaps add a few words about how the help they gave you has made a difference.

If you see something positive come up in the news about them or one of their companies, send a note of congratulations. If you have a shared interest or friend, send along news of them that you think your connection might have missed. A quick email suffices, and is almost always appreciated.

Your network is a garden that needs tending. The best way to get someone to answer your call when you need something is to reach out when you don't need anything.

Myth #4: There is a different set of rules for people in my network than people who are my friends.

Anyone willing to spend a few minutes talking to you or setting up interviews for you is a good friend, even if they are your mother's college roommate's nephew by marriage whom you've never met.

Make sure this person knows you appreciate what they are doing for you. Send a handwritten note (on personalized stationary if possible). Follow up with them by email in 2-4 months to let them know what happened as a result, or just what you are doing. Thank them again.

Keep them in your network, and become part of theirs. Too often new grads think they don't matter enough to circle back and follow up, but if someone has spent some of their precious time with you, they appreciate you spending a little time on them to show your appreciation.

Myth #3: I did meet some people who could help me once a long time ago, but I can't reach out now.

No, no, no. Track them down and send them an email. Be sure to reference when and how you are connected. Be solicitous of their advice.

Most people will respond in this scenario. If not, there are no negative repercussions. Go for it!

Myth #2: Once a colleague leaves the place we work together, they are no longer part of my network.

Actually, they may become one of the most valuable resources in your network.

At some point you are likely to want to move on as well, and you can reach out to find out about the place they are now working. Better yet, ask them to provide you with a reference- in-house references are the strongest. Or, if they don't like it, cross their new place of employment off your list- in-house opinions are also best.

…And the #1 myth about networking that requires debunking is:

Myth #1: I should wait until there is an open position posted at an organization to reach out to a contact there.

A contact at an organization with an open and relevant role is gold! You need to pull out all the stops. Be proactive about working your contacts both before and after you apply. In most instances an inside contact may be the only way to get your resume noticed.

Bottom Line

Believing myths can be a big waste of time and a tremendous loss of opportunity, particularly in a job search and in your career long-term. The sooner you land a job, the better for your bank account. And, a good network is the key to a successful career.

More About Job Search for New Grads:

About the author...

Amy Feind Reeves is the Founder and CEO of JobCoachAmy, where she leverages her experience of over 25 years as a senior executive and hiring manager to help new professionals find and keep jobs that make them happy. Her corporate practice focuses on managing millennials. Amy has enjoyed successful careers as a commercial banker, global management consultant, entrepreneur, corporate executive, and non-profit executive. Amy graduated cum laude from Wellesley College and earned an MBA at the Tuck School of Dartmouth College.

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