I was honored to present to a group of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed graduating English majors from Ursuline College, Walsh University and Mount Union College last Saturday as part of a group of professional writers giving a little reality therapy on what to expect when entering the real world of job seeking and the workplace after (or while) earning that hard-earned degree.
It was a brilliant move on the part of Dr. Ronald Scott, Walsh University Division Chair and Associate Professor of English, to bring about 100 students together for a half-day focused on “An English major? What job will you find with that?”
During my presentation, it was a show of hands for how many have ever attended a professional networking activity (i.e., IABC, PRSA, SPJ, NEOSTC): I believe I saw 2 hands go up.
A show of hands for how many had a profile on LinkedIn. It looked like 3, maybe 4.
A show of hands for how many have put together a portfolio to take out to interviews and post on personal website. Again, it looked like 3 or 4.
And finally, a show of hands for how many have had or looked into corporate or company internships. That looked like a good half-a-dozen at most.
A good portion of the symposium was spent on presentations by college career center coaches on how to “perfect” your resume and cover letter. Don’t get me wrong–this is a very, very important step and needs to be handled.
Yet, I hoped to get another message out there loud and clear on the importance of getting out there and networking, too. And how to make it a priority and elevate it to a high art.
Listen up you starter millennials, whether majoring in English or not: It’s who you know. It’s how you stand out. It’s how you relate to business professionals one-on-one.
To succeed in the art of networking, that means:
1. Maintaining eye contact and leaving your smart phone in your pocket on silence. Okay, okay, smartphones can come out when typing in contact information or showing something from your online portfolio. After that, shove it back in your pocket…and keep it silent.
2. Asking a lot of inquisitive questions about others and their struggles and challenges on the job– it’s really not about you at first–in fact it seldom is.
3. Instead of trying to fit in and following the rules–get outside your box and take chances. Find your gimmick, schtick, juice…and let ‘er rip. Don’t be annoying, just charming.
Scary? Yeah, maybe at first, but it fades quickly. If you reach a level like me where every day you go out there, make a fool of yourself somehow, someway…and in the end no-one really cares. Get out there and stand out a little–that’s what counts! And in fact, by doing this you will most likely endear yourself to someone who will want you more than anyone else.
And…let’s not forget the most crucial element in the art of networking that will jettison you to the top because only maybe 5 percent of job opportunity seekers will do this:
Follow up! Keep sending appropriate, clever, focused, awesome correspondence that will keep you top of mind when an opportunity arises. Don’t be a pest, just persistent. Believe me, you’ll eventually nail it!