Searching for an internship or your first full-time job is an interesting challenge for all students. As a First Generation student, you may be facing additional potential barriers. Do you know what questions to ask or what type of support to seek out? Do you have a support system (family and/or friends) to guide you through this job search process? Other barriers First Generation students might be facing can include:
- You are under the impression you should not ask questions.
- Obligations outside of school make you focus more on the now and not on the future.
- Your professional network is small or nonexistent.
Let’s focus on this last barrier – Networking.
By definition, networking is a deliberate activity to build, reinforce, and maintain relationships of trust with other people to further your goals. Professional networking is simply networking focused on professional goals. One of the biggest challenges job seekers face today is not having strong relationships at their target companies. These relationships are important because they provide information, resources, and opportunities for your job search and career. While it can be challenging to create and build these relationships, they’re also your greatest assets—if you know how to build them with “cold” contacts.
Below are six steps for how to reach out to cold contacts, build relationships, and create career opportunities.
- The relationship comes first. Drop all expectations.
There are two ways to approach networking: transaction-driven and relationship-driven.
Transaction-driven networking means reaching out to people with an expectation that they’ll do something for you, such as forward or review your resume, give you an internal referral, or put you in touch with someone else.
Relationship-driven networking means reaching out with no expectations; you only wish to learn through asking questions and to seek someone’s professional advice. You then take their advice, stay in touch every two to four weeks, and continue to build the relationship over time.
You must focus on relationship-driven networking. Most people only help people they know, like, and trust. And for them to know you, like you, and trust you, you must have a relationship.
- Focus on people who share something in common.
LinkedIn profiles are keyword-rich, which means you can search for people who share something in common with you and then filter by company, position, industry, city, and more.
Do you have an alumni base? Did you play a sport? Are you a veteran? Were you in the band? Did you study psychology? Are you a CFA candidate? Are you an Eagle Scout? Are you an alum of or did you intern at a specific company? Did you live in Spain? Are you a traveler? Are you a first-generation graduate? Are you a sports fan? Do you speak Hindi?
By sharing something in common with someone, it helps create rapport and increases the chances of that person responding.
- Reach out via LinkedIn first. Email second.
Send an invitation to “Connect” with the person on LinkedIn and “Add a Note.” You must add a note. Once someone has connected, you can then send a longer message, similar to how you’d send an email. If someone you’d like to speak with doesn’t connect with you, then send them a cold email.
When reaching out, keep in mind that you’re barging into this person’s life entirely uninvited. You must reach out in a humble manner. For example, don’t say I look forward to hearing from you when they don’t even know you! Instead, say I’d really appreciate the opportunity to speak with you, or I hope to hear back from you.
- Ask well-researched, thoughtful, and personalized questions.
Many people ask generic questions that aren’t specific to whom they’re speaking. For example, What’s the culture like at your company? could be asked to anyone at any company. Instead, ask: I’ve heard Netflix’s culture is unlike any other company’s, and I’ve read the culture memo and deck. In your experience, how does your team follow and live the culture? This question is company-, team-, and person-specific.
Four categories of personalized questions are:
- Background, experience, and career path questions
- Position and work-related questions
- Company and industry-related questions
- Advice and recommendation questions
- Thank them. Stay in touch. Stay top-of-mind.
Within several hours after your conversation, send a short thank-you note with three to four simple bullet points of key takeaways.
Then, two to four weeks later, send a short email posting them on your progress and sharing with them how you’ve taken their advice. Include proof that you’ve taken their advice! Many people lie, so you’ll stand out by including proof.
Finally, continue building the relationship by getting in touch every two to four weeks. This will keep you top-of-mind and they’ll begin to know you, like you, and trust you as a professional.
- It’s a numbers game that requires consistency.
The simple truth is that not everyone wants to help; you must reach out to many who don’t in order to find the few who do. Expect about 5 percent to 20 percent of people to connect with you and be willing to help you, depending on the targeted position, industry, and company.
View your networking as a part-time job. Reach out to five to 10 people every day so you can eventually be calling five to 10 people every week. You must load your schedule with calls and view it as a requirement for achieving your career goals.
If others can do it, you can do it, too. Your first few calls might be shaky. But I promise that after your first five calls, you’ll be rocking it.
Jamie Carlstedt is a career coach to business professionals. Jamie’s article 6 Networking Tips When You Don’t Have a Big Network originally appeared in Vault.