Networking Basics: It’s About Who You Know, Not What You Know

This past summer I set a goal for myself that this school year I would be more proactive when it came to networking and seeking career advice. So, when I got an email from my university’s career center advertising a career trip to New York City where we’d get to tour companies such as Bustle, Facebook, and Spotify, as well as talk to current employees of the companies, it seemed like the opportunity.

It was a jam-packed couple of days, and one thing that surprised me during my visit was how genuine and willing to help everyone was. Not only did they provide insight into what it’s like to work at these companies, but they also gave us really great advice on how to actually get the job. Although this trip was designed for students interested in marketing and communications, the advice given could help anyone who’s looking to get started in any industry.

So, if you’re a recent graduate looking for your first job, or even just someone that’s thinking of making a career change, here are three ways to stand out in the crowd.

1. Authenticity is Always Appreciated

Like I said earlier, we were met with genuine and honest people throughout the trip and I think that really reflects the type of people who are getting hired at these companies. At Bustle, they told us that most of the time, the best way to get noticed is through informationals. Grabbing a coffee for 15 minutes can be all it takes, and the key is to come prepared and to be receptive.

They emphasized that you don’t need to ask for a job directly (if anything, it’s considered a major faux pas), but to just come with questions and with the willingness to make a connection. I think that’s a great approach and Mayte Espinal at eMarketer put it even better: “It’s my job to know where you fit in the company, it’s your job to know you.” If you know yourself, then others will recognize that confidence, and they’ll keep you in mind when a new opportunity arises.

2. Recognize and Highlight Your Transferable Skills

Building off of knowing yourself and staying true to that, the biggest thing to identify is your transferable skill-set. As an English major, I wasn’t entirely sure where I would fit into these companies, especially when it came to jobs that had to do with research and data analysis. But, one thing that was emphasized at almost every company we visited was that it didn’t really matter what your major was or how informed you were of an industry. As long as you could identify your transferable skills, the rest could be learned later on.

Strong communication and interpersonal skills, a desire to be challenged, and a curiosity for knowledge were all things that employers wanted to see in future employees. It was a major relief for me, and it changed my perspective on how I should be presenting myself in job interviews. Rather than trying to fit into what you think employers want to see, if you highlight the skills you already have and stop worrying about the ones you don’t, it’ll result in a much more confident approach.

3. Networking is Essential

Especially in a city like New York, where it’s easy to get lost in the crowd, it’s important to nurture and maintain the connections you have and to not be afraid to reach out and make new ones. It’s all about who you know. During one of the evenings of our trip, we attended a networking event where we got to meet with George Washington University alumni living in the city. Almost everyone I talked to had gotten hired for their current position because of someone they knew. 

This trip was especially beneficial to me, in that it helped facilitate relationships with people in an industry that I didn’t have any previous connections with. None of my family or friends have ever been remotely interested in media and communications, so I really needed a push in the right direction. I was also able to connect with my peers in the cohort, something that I hadn’t considered beforehand, and I’m really grateful that everyone I met on the trip was super nice and open. It doesn’t take much to write an email or message to someone asking to keep in touch, and you really never know how they might help you in the future or who they might know. 

So, What’s the Bottom Line?

I think that sometimes we overthink what we need to do to get the job that we want. We think we need to have the perfect resume, the perfect cover letter, know everything there is to know about the position, etc. Overall, the main thing I learned from this trip, and what I hope you can gain out of reading this post, is that it’s a much more organic process than we think. And I think looking at it that way makes it less intimidating.

Ultimately, it’s about making connections and the best way to do that is to stay true to yourself and to keep trying. You get what you give, and if you are able to be honest with yourself, to know your strengths and work on your weaknesses, then you’re bound to get noticed and future employers will appreciate the authenticity.