Life Skills Start Early: Always Be Networking


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Over the course of my 30+ year sales career, it has never ceased to amaze me how often the sales skills that I teach are so widely applicable. I know it sounds cliché but the reality is that we are always selling in one way or another. When my daughter knocked on neighbor’s doors with bags of $20 popcorn for her soccer team’s fundraiser, when you walk into a meeting to convince your boss that your team needs a new hire – all of these situations involve selling. So this topic should be no surprise and hopefully those parents of new college grads will think of it as a public service announcement when it comes to he/she finding that first job.

To start, you may be wondering whether your grad received help from Career Services on campus – negative. And he/she most likely did not really receive assistance with developing a great resume. Parents, I would urge you to look over these resumes and provide some guidance before the job search begins.

This is one thing I have discovered in the past few years: most universities and colleges do not equip their grads with networking skills for the 21st century.  As you have probably already figured out, my son is a recent college graduate who learned about LinkedIn and the power of referrals early in his college experience and used that time to connect and exploit his network – yes, thanks to the advice of Dad (though he will likely never admit that I was hopeful once).

I am truly amazed at the number of grads I have coached this year who do not have a clue about how to network. What’s truly amazing about this is that these digital natives have no fear of technology; they embrace it with apps, Smart Phones, tablets, and social networking.  But they don’t realize that they are only going to secure their first job if they truly know how to leverage their resources and differentiate their message to the companies they want to target. 

It starts with a decision about where they want to live, what type of job they are looking for and for which companies they want to work. When you think about it, this is really the same thing as building a prospecting and territory plan in sales. Regardless of the profession your grad has selected, he/she must recognize that during the job search timeframe, they are in a sales role while they seek the attention and interest of targeted companies and attempt to convince them why they are the best candidate. 

The next step is to leverage LinkedIn to search for connections of the people you (and your grad) know. The alumnae and fraternities/sororities are a perfect place to start. You need to show them how to “mine” 2nd connections using the 1st connection to get the introduction. You then need to ask for the introduction and follow up with an email and a phone call to the person asking for 15 minutes to gain some insight into the company. Your grad should prepare for these meetings by researching the company and developing a short list of questions.

Unfortunately, I find that some recent graduates have less than stellar resumes and have not adequately developed their LinkedIn profiles. Take the time to see if your grad has:

  • An appropriate photo in their profile 
  • A profile that matches the skills they want to highlight for the job

Since recent grads may not have a ton of experience in their chosen field, they must “map” their college experience and skills to those of the role for which they are applying.

My graduate decided that California is the place to be so he worked the alumni network and fraternity network while on campus. He approached people during homecoming and alumni events to connect with them on LinkedIn. And he knew he wanted to be involved with music and marketing making Pandora an ideal place to work. He went about making calls, getting meetings and sending emails to get the introductions and was able to secure interviews. He was surprised that not a single alum or fraternity brother he asked turned him down. The end result? My son started his new job this week as a Consumer Insight Analyst at Pandora in San Francisco. 

This is the new world – jobs are posted and often already filled by someone who knows someone. So I would urge you all to advise and counsel your grads as they seek to put their education to use and land that great first job. 

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tim Haller
Tim Haller has over 25 years of sales and sales management experience. He has delivered training and consulting to Fortune 100 clients across a variety of industries, including technology, business services, travel/leisure and biotechnology. Tim has trained hundreds of sales professionals to close business through the use of effective sales prospecting, negotiation, and closing techniques.


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