“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Every young person who has ever searched for a job hears this advice, usually from someone he or she doesn’t know, who is giving unsolicited advice. Still, there is truth to this old adage. In today’s hiring climate, knowing the right person could be the difference between being unemployed and securing that entry-level analyst position at a third-tier company in a dying industry you’ve always dreamed of working in.
But fear not, even if your professional network consists of the elderly woman whose Pomeranian you walked back in high school, here are some tips to help you get connected.
1. Leverage loose connections. If you met your friend’s girlfriend’s roommate’s cousin once removed at a Halloween party less than five years ago, and that person now works in your industry, that person is now a loose connection. Send him or her an unsolicited, awkwardly worded email asking for a favor you have no intention of returning. Don’t forget to throw in a compliment for the well-executed Wall-E costume.
2. Make business cards for yourself, even if, especially if, you are not currently employed. Your business title should be some kind of euphemism for “unemployed,” like self-employed, entrepreneur or consultant. Make your business cards twice as large as normal ones in order to differentiate yourself.
3. Be prepared to drink lots and lots of coffee. While networking, you’re going to meet a lot of people, and those people will only drink coffee. Coffee is the most critical component in forming business relationships. In fact, if you don’t meet over coffee, your conversation technically never happened.
4. Get all of your friends to endorse you on LinkedIn. Nothing is more enticing to a recruiter than a glowing endorsement of your superior quantitative modeling skills from your big brother.
5. Market your brand. Design a futuristic logo for yourself and feature it prominently on all of your social media accounts, then legally change your last name to “, Inc.” Buy the domain for your full name, and then blog daily about the challenges of being an entrepreneur.
6. Remember reciprocation. If someone has written you a recommendation, introduced you to a recruiter or given you a glowing endorsement of your superior quantitative modeling skills on LinkedIn, you owe them. Follow up with a thank-you note, then remove them from your email contacts and silently hope to never hear from them again.
7. Attend networking events. Industry conferences and professional happy hours are great places to build your network and oftentimes, to eat free food. Smile until your cheeks go numb. Remember to distribute your over- or undersize business cards.