I gave a talk to the seniors at our local university recently (Go Buffs!) about job-hunting, and one of the assignments I gave to the students was to begin their job-search networking now, before the New Year. "How do I do that?" they all wanted to know. Good question.
I told them to get out a piece of paper—sooner rather than later—and list 100 people that they can reach out to in their job-search efforts. They moaned. One hundred people? Yes, I said, 100 is the minimum.
I know that sounds like a big number, especially to young people who feel shy about contacting people they know only slightly, such as their parents' friends and the people they used to babysit or rake leaves for, but they shouldn't. Young people don't always understand that there are people who know them better than they think and that connections are stronger than they realize.
A Privilege to Help the Young
If you lived next door to a young mom in 1985 and spent countless hours drinking coffee with her and watching her baby Jessica crawl around, wouldn't you have a soft spot in your heart for Jessica 20 years later, when she has grown up and gone to college?
If you had moved away but stayed in touch with the young mother and her family over the years, wouldn't you be delighted to hear from the soon-to-graduate Jessica? I bet you would. As I told the students, old people (that's anyone older than I!) love to help young people. It's a privilege.
And so, I told them, you make a list of these 100 people, including but not limited to the following groups:
• Your parents' friends
• Your friends' parents, going all the way back to grade school if you have stayed in touch at all
• Your scoutmasters and Brownie troop leaders
• People you know from your family's place of worship
• Former teachers, and every professor you've had in college
• People you worked for (at Pizza Hut, in the school library, on your babysitting or landscaping jobs, at the pool)
• People you know from internships or volunteer programs
• Alums of your school you've had contact with
• Fellow club members and fraternity or sorority members
Use the Holidays to Get in Touch
Once you have your list, you'll need contact information for as many of these people as you can find. Unlike in 1985, these days we have LinkedIn (Google) and other tools to help locate people we've lost touch with. So a new grad has a great shot at rounding up a good number of these people and can write to them or e-mail them to enlist their help in a job search.
Now, if a new grad can accumulate 100 contacts, what can an experienced working person do? At least double that amount, I'd say. If you haven't focused on staying in touch with your network, now is a great time to think about it, with the holidays here.
If you're a happily employed person, a robust network is important. If you're a current or in-the-near-future job seeker, it's imperative!
If you doubt that you can get a list of 200 contacts together for your 2007 professional networking, write to me and I'll help you figure out how. In addition to the new-grads' networking groups listed above, working people can add the following categories:
• Current and past clients, vendors, and consultants
• Co-workers at every job you've ever had
• Folks whose business cards are scattered in your briefcase right now
People sometimes fear that there is a statute of limitations on networking. There isn't! If a person might remember you from the wonderful panel discussion you shared in 1992, you should write and rekindle the association.
What's the downside? After all, it's the holidays, a great time to connect and wish people well. You never know what the newest member of your network could do for you in 2007…and vice versa.