"Network, network, network."
It's been drilled into my head by employers, educators and family members since my first day of college. Let me tell you, I'm glad it was. There's no doubt I've already used networking connections to my advantage, and during this critical stage in my life (which I like to call "Job-Hunt '08"), I've never been more of an advocate of their potential.
The thing is, while I feel I've been adequately convinced of the influence networking connections can have, I don't think my peers have. Sure, they're on Monster and Career Builder, constantly searching for updated listings and trying to actively participate in Job Hunt '08, yet they're missing the mark. Let's face it - many available jobs are never even posted. So how do these positions get filled? You guessed it: networking.
I think a big chunk of the reason people don't use networking is because they don't know how to get started. The first time I was advised to network, I remember thinking, "Great! And now what?" The fact is, you're networking all the time without even knowing it. That professor you had sophomore year? Your boyfriend's cousin's best friend? They can both be a part of your network if you play your cards right. The key is to make a name for yourself. Let the new people you meet know who you are and what you're about. Work on your elevator pitch.
Luckily, my generation also has this wonderful resource called the Web. Luckier still, along with the dawn of social media came social networking communities. Case in point: Twitter. While I've only been a member of this community for a matter of months, I'm already forming valuable relationships with several influential figures in the PR field.
Another reason people dismiss networking as a tool is they are too timid to use the connections they've made. For these people, my advice is simply to get over your fears and suck it up. People are generally willing to help, even if you have only met them once or twice. And hey, if they aren't, move on to another connection!
The connections are out there - find them and use them. I may never have interned in the publicity department at The CW Network in Los Angeles had I not mentioned my search to the random girl in Boston that my friend was dating at the time. Her dad: Senior VP of Communications, The CW. Bingo! And the woman who interviewed me for my internship in publicity at E! Networks? A Boston University alumna.
So, fellow job-hunters, I encourage you to start sending out your feelers and generating/tapping into those resources. Now's the time.