Networking — it’s like that daunting semester-long project worth 50 percent of your final grade. You know it’s essential to your success but you avoid it because it’s too much work and you aren’t even sure how to do it yet. However, unlike those dreaded projects, networking is worth a lot more than 50 percent of your final grade. According to LinkedIn, 85 percent of jobs are filled through networking, which translates to 1,000s of positions every day. Your dream job is likely one of them but if you fail to hone your networking skills, you won’t ever get a shot at landing it.
To understand what steps college students can take to improve their networking strategies, I interviewed Rob Cornilles, the founder and CEO of Game Face Incorporated, a renowned consulting firm in the ultra-competitive sports industry. Thanks to the relationship-building skills Cornilles has developed over his nearly 30-year career, he has personally consulted more professional sports organizations than any other person in the industry.
Cornilles offered three main pieces of advice that can help any young networker, regardless of their insecurities. Maybe networking scares you, maybe it makes you feel fake or maybe you believe you already have all the networking skills you need. Whatever the case, these tips from a recognized expert will help you develop your network and as a result, prepare you to land your dream job.
A sincere “thank-you” goes a long way.
Self-proclaimed introverts constantly worry that they simply do not possess the necessary skills to successfully network. However, when asked about the most impressive trait that students and young professionals possess, Cornilles said nothing of charisma or confidence. He said that gratitude is what stands out most. Cornilles stressed the difference between sincere, heartfelt gratitude and an attempt at charm or flattery. The first will create a lasting, positive impression in the minds of almost anyone you communicate with, while most see the latter as a manipulative gesture.
“The funny thing about gratitude,” said Cornilles, “is that when someone expresses it, the person who gave wants to give even more.”
Today’s casual friendship may be tomorrow’s powerful connection.
Most careers span several decades and include multiple job changes, unexpected twists and even major promotions. Therefore, it pays to build relationships with everyone around you, regardless of his or her current position. Cornilles said that the most effective networkers are constantly sowing seeds they know may not sprout for months or years later. As a college student, that means that sometimes the most important networking you can do is from the comfort of your own classroom or even dorm room.
The right mindset makes all the difference.
At times, it can be daunting to try and build relationships with seasoned professionals. Comparing your lack of knowledge with their decades of experience might tempt you to automatically adopt what Cornilles called a “take, take, take” mentality. Such a mindset is a major turnoff for any professional. Instead, Cornilles strongly recommended that students adopt a “give” mentality, even in relationships with experienced PR practitioners. You might doubt that you have anything useful to offer but he disagrees.
“As someone who’s been in business for 25-30 years, I recognize that even a student has insights that I don’t have” said Cornilles. “While you might not have near the experience as the person you are reaching out to, you can offer a unique perspective that can add value to any relationship.”
You might be a self-proclaimed introvert who gets sick at the thought of reaching out to an experienced professional or you might be a networking pro with dozens of industry connections. Regardless of your status as a networker, if you continue to develop meaningful relationships, you will greatly increase your odds of landing the jobs of your choice.
Some of these relationships you form might benefit you in the short-term, some in the long-term and some might not ever seem to benefit you but as Cornilles put it, “a good networker understands you can never have too many friends.”
Carson Perry is a senior studying public relations at Brigham Young University. He is the director of communications for the BYU Sports Business Club. Carson dreams of the day when his favorite sports teams stop losing, but even if that day never comes, he would still like to help run their PR. Connect with him on LinkedIn.