How to Network After College

If you are a new grad, congratulations! You now have the credentials you need to start your professional career.

But what if you don’t have any job opportunities lined up? Are you unsure about how to find a job after college?

Life after college can seem intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be! A critical piece of your job search plan and your professional development is learning how to network. Many college grads don’t realize how many opportunities for networking are readily available for finding a job after college.

How to Use LinkedIn for Networking

While you may not have a lot of experience in the professional world, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be on LinkedIn. This is the main networking platform for professionals globally and a great way to find a job after college, so if you haven’t opened an account yet, set a time this week to start.

[READ: Here’s What a Recent Grad’s LinkedIn Profile Should Look Like.]

Set up your profile with a professional picture that speaks to the industry that interests you. This means avoiding crazy college photos.

Fill in your profile as much as you can, focusing on the skills that you have for the job position you hope to fill.

Then you can start to make connections. Remember that LinkedIn is different from Instagram and TikTok. You don’t necessarily want to have a lot of followers; you want to make meaningful connections that will help you professionally.

Use LinkedIn for networking with:

— Your professors.

— The alumni association of your university.

— Professionals you respect.

— Friends of your parents.

Your professors know you well and will likely be glad to keep in touch on LinkedIn. They may have connections in industries or with previous students who are working in an industry that interests you.

Your alumni association will keep you informed about career events or job fairs. This will open up further opportunities for you to network and develop as a professional.

Professionals you respect could be someone you have read about, someone who gave a lecture you attended or the manager of a local business. When connecting with them, let them know why you want to connect.

Don’t underestimate friends of your parents. Many would be glad to help you learn about an industry or let you know of a job opening in their organizations.

Once you make connections, continue to nurture them. Dedicate time every day to your new network connections. Growing a relationship on LinkedIn will take time and effort, but it is worth it.

Make reasonable requests as opposed to demanding information. For example, don’t ask your dad’s friend to get you a job at her organization. Instead, ask her if she has any connections in an organization that interests you and whether she might make an introduction.

[SEE: 10 Ways to Perfect Your Personal Brand.]

How to Network at a Conference

Take advantage of job fairs, career conferences hosted by your alumni association and industry-specific conferences to network. While conversing with strangers can seem awkward, this is a great way to expand your network and uncover job possibilities after college.

When attending events, it’s helpful to determine your goal for attending the event. Do you want to meet new people, meet the speaker or find out certain information about an industry? This will help you stay focused and make the event more meaningful. You will want to take business cards with you (yes, even as a college grad) to leave with those you connect with.

[READ: The Perks of Professional Organizations.]

To start conversations, try to connect at a personal level first. Using thought-provoking questions can help you initiate a more interesting and engaging conversation and lay the foundation for a stronger long-term connection. Here are some conversation starters.

To network at a conference, ask:

— “What brings you to this event?”

— “What are your biggest challenges in your industry?”

— “Did you hear speaker X, what did you think?”

— “What do you like about your job?”

— “What do you think of the latest X trend in this industry?”

Don’t be afraid to identify yourself as a recent college graduate. State your major and the industry that you are looking to work in. Choose two or three personal details to share with new connections, such as what attracted you to the industry and what you hope to contribute to it as a professional. Showing your passion as a new grad is always a breath of fresh air in the professional world.

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