It’s that time of year when college seniors who are about to graduate hit the panic button. They start reaching out to any and all alumni in their chosen fields to try and talk to someone who could possibly help them in any way, shape, or form.
I get it. I absolutely did it in college, so people should feel free to reach out to me. It’s “paying it forward,” good karma. It makes you feel like a good person and I truly do not hate helping people out when I can. However, what baffles me is that there are some people out there who have absolutely no idea how to network. Sometimes these people are just completely socially awkward and downright rude, and it’s amazing they have the gall to ask for advice or even an internship or job from you. I constantly hear horror stories from friends about people who reach out to them that sound like absolute nightmares.
Soon to be graduates–and really anyone looking for a job–take note: here’s how NOT to network.
1. Be Rude
I don’t care if you pulled a Drake and started from the bottom or if your parents own the color blue. You’re asking for advice, and if a person responds to you, he or she is doing you a favor. If you are rude or disrespectful, trust me–no one will do you any more favors.
For example, I had someone reach out to me a few months ago and ask if he could set up a time to talk to me. He then gave me his cell phone number and told me when he was available. Really? I’m supposed to work around this guy’s schedule? The last time I checked, I was the one with the busy job and other adult responsibilities and he was the one trying to schedule me around a hangover and a sorority date function. I don’t think so. Don’t wait up for my call.
2. Be Socially Awkward
I know this isn’t the easiest skill for people to learn, and not everyone is capable of this, but you have to be able to have a conversation with someone. You have to play the game and use a little finesse here. If you can’t do that, I’m not sure how well you’re going to do in the real world anyway.
It’s pretty simple though. Have a bunch of questions written out, and actually listen to the person’s response. Then engage with him or her rather than wait for this person to trail off so you can ask your next question. Also, I’m not dumb and neither are you. We both know what you’re here for, whether it’s a job, an internship, a recommendation, or so on. While I value persistence and think anyone with the balls to cold-email or cold-call alumni is someone worth talking to, for the love of God, let the person you’re reaching out to get to the conclusion, and don’t start off saying you’re talking to them for a job.
3. Completely Lose Touch With Anyone You’ve Ever Worked Or Networked With
This is a great one. Say you had an internship the summer before your junior year of college. How soon before graduation should you reconnect with them? The answer is (trick question) you should have been talking to that company since you finished your internship.
Let’s look at the facts. Companies have anywhere between 10 and 20 interns per semester, and it’s been five semesters (counting summer) since you interned there. That’s 50 to 100 kids who have gone through since you, each of them as qualified and connected as you are–possibly more so. If you haven’t kept up with people who have worked there, no one will remember you. Period. I can assure you that your old supervisor from that company will not appreciate you emailing him or her a month before you graduate asking about job openings. You’ll probably get sent to the SPAM folder.
Also, if you connected with someone months ago and then never spoke to him or her again, I’m not sure what you’re doing, but you’re doing it wrong.
4. Don’t Intern Anywhere At All
Full disclosure, I can appreciate anyone who needed to work for money rather than be an unpaid intern between college semesters. If you needed to work for money, that’s a fine reason not to take an internship or seek out a paid internship in another field.
But if I speak to someone who didn’t intern anywhere out of laziness or apathy and is as eloquent as a brick wall–or to someone who’s just completely entitled–I really just don’t know how to help you. Internships are incredibly hard work, but the rewards are unparalleled.
5. LinkedIn Stalking And Randomly Adding People On LinkedIn
We’ve all seen that viral letter from the woman in Cleveland who nastily shut down someone who tried to randomly connect with her on LinkedIn–granted, she was really, REALLY harsh. But now that the dust has settled, she kind of had a point.
If someone doesn’t know you, that person can’t help you. The way to connect with that person isn’t to just randomly add him or her on LinkedIn because of what his or her job title is or because of the company he or she works for. On the other hand, sending an email is quick and painless, and it’ll show the person you’re trying to connect with your intentions.
The thing about LinkedIn is that if you’re looking at someone’s profile, THAT PERSON CAN SEE YOU. And that person is not going to think, “My, that intrepid young man or woman from my alma mater is viewing my profile. I’ll add the lad or lass to my connections and take him or her under my wing.” Absolutely not. What they’ll say is, “Well, that’s fucking creepy. Block.” Don’t be a creep. Writing an email in five minutes isn’t going to kill you. It can pay off in more ways than you could possibly imagine.
What am I trying to get through to people with this article? I realize I’m being awfully negative, but it grinds my gears when people network poorly. No matter how good a person he or she might be, this person needs to realize he or she only gets one shot at a first impression. After that, impressions are very hard to change. (Unless you’re Jimmy Fallon. That dude can do some damn fine impressions and change them on a dime. Have you seen his Bruce Springsteen? Spot on.)
But for those of you who can have a conversation and have the balls to reach out to someone you don’t know to connect with him or her? That takes cojones. Rock on, you ballsy bastards. Rock the fuck on.