Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of speaking to juniors and seniors at Boston College, my alma mater about the importance of networking as they jump-start their careers.
What I found when I arrived were a lot of seemingly put together college upperclassmen: their shirts pressed, their resumes polished, their qualifications top notch. What I discovered after about five minutes was that their wide eyes, supposedly filled with promise, were actually brimming with fear: fear of navigating the post-grad world, of not living up to expectations, and ultimately, of the unknown.
Their concerns were valid. During the job hunting process something as small as a lingering, unanswered networking email or application submission can seem scarier than any skeleton in your closet.
Don’t get spooked by the folklore: there are plenty of veteran professionals willing and able to help you in your career search, and just as many available jobs.
Here are my best tips for young professionals on how to find them.
Look outside your LinkedIn Box
The best networking opportunities don’t always present themselves when you’re in an office or wearing a suit. People who you encounter outside of your professional network can offer insights into what you enjoy, what you’re good at, how you communicate, and how you relate to others. Consider asking your family friends, an alumnus of your sorority of fraternity chapter, or intramural coach or teammate for advice. Some of the best career conversations I’ve ever had happened after a spin class.
Apply, even when it’s not a perfect fit
The past few years have brought a slew of studies and articles dedicated to women in the workplace, and for good reason: women aren’t climbing the ladder like their male counterparts, and are still fighting for equal pay. Part of the problem starts long before a final interview: women aren’t applying for the jobs they should be applying to in the first place.
According to the now-famous Hewlett-Packard internal study, men apply for a job when they meet only 60 percent of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100 percent of them. This behavior has been attributed to a lack of confidence and fear of failure or wasted energy. Whichever psychological explanation you prefer, the action step remains the same: apply for the job, even if your resume doesn’t check every box.
Don’t feel pressured to take the first job you are offered, especially if it’s not a great fit, or one where you would excel. Why accept a position you’re not excited about in June when a better offer could come along in July? Sounds like a gamble – but college graduates with internship experience are a hot commodity in the city right now.
Boston’s unemployment rate is down to a whopping 4.2 percent as of July of this year. That’s below the state average (4.4 percent), the national average (4.5 percent), and New York City’s average (5 percent). Make the most of your networking opportunities to determine what field most interests you, how you could best utilize that experience to move up the ladder in the coming years, and accept a job that marries those two goals.