7 Secrets to Networking Your Way to a Job After College


First, I want you to picture a drummer who brings the funk and spent a good deal of time speaking Portuguese in Brazil after graduating from college.

Now I want you to picture an insanely organized, determined, and assertive job-seeker.

Who would you rather be?

Haha I tricked you! You don’t have to choose between the two.

Introducing Mr. Pete Gibson—gifted drummer and networker extraordinaire.

Now before you click out of this page because you’ve already labeled it as “just another networking post that tells me I have to network to get a job blah, blah, blah…” I’m going to assure you that it’s not.

Turn that eye-roll into a drumroll because this post is not one that throws buzzwords in your face and then leaves you with nothing to actually use in the real world.

This is a true story. This is a story that can be broken apart and learned from. This is a story that will actually help you (if you use what you learn) to find a job in the big, scary, outside-of-college universe.

Y’all ready for this?

Okay, so Pete Gibson went to the University of Redlands and graduated in 2011 with a BA in Environmental Business. He also minored in music performance and kept a beat pretty well in a couple bands (okay a little better than pretty well). When he graduated he chose to head to Brazil and participate in an eight-month intensive Portuguese language program.

When it was time to bid farewell to Rio de Janeiro, and return to the States, he started looking for a job. Like many recent graduates, he turned to his education for direction and asked himself what job it “allowed” him to get. The result? Environmental business = Solar Energy company, right?

So he started working for one in Oregon. Cool.

Except that it wasn’t that cool.

He found that the world of engineers and bureaucracy was, well… boring for him. He missed the creative process that had always been entwined in his life as a music minor. His days spent working for the energy company ironically lacked energy.

That’s when he met a woman who worked as a recruiter for an advertising agency. Hearing about his background and desire for a more youthful and creative environment, she suggested he explore the field of project management in the advertising industry.

According to the Project Management Institute, project management is “the application of knowledge, skills, and techniques to execute projects effectively and efficiently.”

What exactly does this mean in terms of a typical day?

Well, to quote Pete, “Typical days don’t exist in the ad world. The only constant is change.”

But some of the tasks of a project manager are to monitor schedules and budgets, identify risks, and communicate with all the different departments as well as the clients to produce the best possible product.

With a position in project management, Pete would still be in a role that focused on facilitating and maintaining business relationships, but it would also allow him to work within the creative atmosphere of advertising.

Whoa. Bingo!

This was a big moment for Pete. See, as an Environmental Business major he’d figured that the advertising industry was “off-limits.” He’d assumed that in order to work in this field, he’d need a background in graphic design and be able to actually produce the art (copy and design) needed for the advertisements.

[Author’s note: This is the exact reason AfterCollege created Explore. We realized that most students and recent graduates were unaware of the multitude of possibilities their majors afforded them.]

Pete decided that this project management thing sounded like the perfect job for him. So he did some networking and got a new job. End of blog post.

Haha just kidding.

It was not that simple. It never is.

Here are Pete’s 7 secrets to successfully network your way to a job. He is living proof that they work.

1. Play the offense

You’ve got to attack. Pete didn’t wait around for things to happen. He immediately began to involve himself in as many different advertising events going on in the city as possible. He volunteered at art shows, introduced himself to people who worked in the industry, and set up informational interviews with them.

“Wah,” you cry, “but how am I supposed to know about those things or meet those people?”

The greatest part about living in this century is that we have a little something called Google. Google allows you to do a bit of research and find out about these events. The internet also allows you to follow companies on Twitter and to reach out to people via LinkedIn.

Pete did all of that.

He looked on Twitter and saw when the companies he was interested in were going to have open houses that he could go to. Since advertising agencies often rent gallery spaces for art shows, he would make sure that he either attended as a guest or volunteered at them. When he saw someone who held a position he was interested in on LinkedIn, he would write them a message and see if he could sit down with them for 15–20 minutes to chat about their experiences.

He wasn’t afraid to introduce himself and explain his situation. This is perhaps the biggest secret to his success.

I asked him, “So you would just walk up to these people and start talking to them?”

His response was, “Oh, hell yeah!”

That’s what you have to keep in mind during this process. You’re going to have to be assertive and make the first move.

Pete also recommends reaching out to alumni. Once again use social networks to find alumni who are in your industry and might be interested in talking to you about what it’s like to work in that field. The University of Redlands has both a LinkedIn group for Alumni as well as a Facebook page.

His advice for all of these interactions?

2. Passion is in fashion

Being assertive is different from being aggressive. You don’t want to freak anyone out. Never lead with “I’m looking for a job. Can you give me a job?” It’s just such a turn-off.

Pete suggests leading with your passion. What is it about this field that draws you in? Pete was genuinely interested in working in an industry that encouraged creativity and he made that clear when introducing himself. People can tell when you’re being honest and are surprisingly responsive when they hear authentic enthusiasm in a person’s voice.

And this passion should go beyond “job-talk.” You must also try to connect with the person on another level. You have to make them remember you as a fellow human being, not a job-seeking robot. If someone had a background in music, Pete would bring up his own background and connect on that level. He would share experiences he’d had in Brazil and try to show who he was as a person.

He’d also make sure that when he did ask for something, it was small; he wanted just 15 to 20 minutes of their time to learn more about what they do and their experiences in that industry.

3. Create a manifesto

In order to be confident enough to approach someone with this sort of passion, it’s important to be able to see it for yourself. A while back we suggested that you create a personal brand mantra, but Pete took it a step (or maybe more than one) further and you may want to do the same.

He wrote a manifesto for himself and spent no less than three months working on it.

A manifesto is a written statement that describes the policies, goals, and opinions of a person or group.

Writing this out not only helps you identify what you’re looking for, but also solidifies it in your mind so that you can speak about it with ease and confidence when networking.

4. Pete and his spreadsheet

Learning about project management and connecting with industry players became Pete’s second job. He scheduled as many informational interviews as possible on Friday afternoons (some of his only free time). He dedicated a great deal of time to research.

After a full day of work, he’d come home only to spend hours reading about different companies he was interested in. That way he could identify industry players, understand the issues going on within the field, and have the knowledge to be able to connect with the people he was meeting.

To keep track of everything, Pete created an Excel file with all of the people he had reached out to and met with. He made sure to document everything to show how often he had contacted that person and what they had discussed.

If it had been a while since he had communicated with a certain person, he would look for a reason to reach out to them. He might find and send them an article that tied in to what they were doing or about something he noted that they’d talked about.

“It’s all about persistence without being annoying,” he says. That’s why it’s important to keep track of your interactions and to offer them something rather than ask them for something.

5. Follow up. No, I mean it. Follow up

If you haven’t gotten the idea by now, Pete was very good about following up. In fact, every time he met with someone, he would send them a handwritten card thanking them for their time and mentioning at least one point that had really stood out in their conversation.

6. Act like the paparazzi are EVERYWHERE

Sure, not every city is as small as Portland, but that doesn’t mean this advice is any less important. You never know who you’re going to see when you are out and about. Pete is very conscious about his behavior out in public. He knows that someone who sees him out one night could be the person interviewing him the next day.

This was the same advice I got from my German professor in Austria. She was always dressed to impress (even when she ran down to the grocery store) because she knew there was a chance she’d run into an employer or coworker.

You have to think about how people are perceiving you and whether they’d like to work with the person they see.

Think Ryan Gosling NOT Charlie Sheen.

Got it?

7. You want the job. You want the job. And you don’t care who knows it!

Pete never asked anyone for a job, but he made it known that he was in pursuit of one. He told everyone he knew and met about his interest in switching to that field.

If you don’t let people know you’re looking, chances are they’re not going to think of you if something becomes available.

So what ended up happening with Pete and his pursuit of the ideal job?

A position became available within one of the companies he had made connections at, they contacted him, and he got the job.

Coincidence? I think not. It was because he had put himself out there, worked hard at networking, and didn’t stop until he was happily employed.

You can do the same.

Homework time! Determined to get a job? Create a manifesto or a personal brand mantra and find out what it is you’re interested in doing. Use Explore to discover all of the different opportunities your major has to offer. Then use our handy-dandy friend Google to discover events, social media profiles, and news about your ideal industry. Follow in Pete’s footsteps and throw yourself into the networking experience. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people, but remember that you’re not asking for a job. You’re just trying to learn as much as possible about the field of your choice.

P.S. Have any networking tips you’d like to add? Leave them in the comments section below!


12 Responses to “7 Secrets to Networking Your Way to a Job After College”

Tell us what you think: