Dear young recent grad/career seeker,
Guess what, no one knows you exist. Isn’t hyperbole great? But in all seriousness, you probably aren’t as well known as you think you are, especially not in professional circles.
Okay, so you have a solid group of friends and few of your professors know your name, but at the end of the day those people aren’t likely to employ you after graduation.
My advice? Talk, damn you; talk!
I would have a handful of students walk into my office at the Deming Center each week asking about jobs with local companies – how to find them, where to apply, etcetera – and having no clue how to approach the situation. My answer to their burning questions was always the same, “get out into the community.” As you can imagine, there was a lot of, “is that it?” and “is that all you got for me?”
“Yes, that is all I ‘got’ for you!”
In reality I could have told them to check LinkedIn for job posts or visit sites like Monster.com, but no other suggestions would have been as helpful in the long-term as “get out in the community.”
Boulder, and other cities like it, has an incredible startup ecosystem with a wide variety of opportunities at companies of all sizes. So in the midst of this ongoing startup boom there are plenty of jobs to be had, and in my experience getting out there and immersing yourself in the community is the best way to get a foot in the door with a company, and ultimately a job.
Here are the three bare-bones steps I have discovered work best for doing just that:
1) Go to Events
I was always telling business students at the Deming Center that if they wanted to, they could attend a local business event for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the week. 1 Million Cups for some morning networking, iLaunch in the afternoon for some quality programming and House of Genius in the evening to polish up on your pitch feedback. That is an entirely plausible day here in Boulder, and I can bet days like those are doable in most major cities across the country.
There is no substitution for good ‘ole fashioned showing face. The more entrepreneurship and business events you go to, the better. I have personally gotten more business cards from simply showing up to local events and asking this one question: “so what brings you here.” The end goal isn’t to pitch yourself, it’s simply to mingle and get a follow-up conversation with someone.
2) Find Common Ground
So you are attending an event and introduced yourself to someone… now what? If you take anything away from this post, it should be this: People love to talk about themselves and their personal interests. So use that! Get others to talk about what interests them. When they mention something that you have a similar interest or curiosity in, engage them about it. In sharing similar interests with someone, you establish common ground that makes you stick out in that person’s mind.
In the past year I can recall only a few instances when I genuinely had nothing in common with the person I was talking to. The common ground can be as simple as a favorite restaurant you both enjoy. The important part is, in creating that common ground you establish a personal rapport with those you encounter.
3) Be Genuine
Unfortunately, the word “networking” comes with a negative connotation. Networking is often seen as nothing more than disingenuous socializing; the kind of thing that sleazy people do to get ahead in their own careers. This negative connotation makes it all the more important to be genuine.
Most successful entrepreneurs can sniff out BS from a mile away, and as soon as they feel that you’re speaking with them purely for the sake of personal gain, you’ll be shut down so fast it will make your head spin. Engaging in an insincere conversation is worse than not engaging in conversation at all.
The first step to getting a job in the entrepreneurship space is to get a foot in the door. All too often, college students and recent grads overthink how to do that. Its honestly as simple as going to events, establishing common ground with those you meet and being as genuine as possible throughout the entire process.
Listen to others, ask engaging questions, be passionate about your pursuits, and eventually an opportunity will come your way.