Networking 101: Why Networking is Crucial for Recent Graduates

By Anne Brown
Co-author of Grad to Great (Dalidaze Press, 2007)

Q: Why should I be concerned about building a network when I haven’t even graduated yet? Shouldn’t I just concentrate on finding a job?

A. According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Labor, approximately 70% of all jobs are found through personal contacts. Want to know how many jobs are actually found through sending out resumes and cover letters to people who have never heard of you? A depressing 2%. Therefore, you are more likely to conduct a successful job search if you concentrate on building relationships as opposed to focusing solely on your resume. You really can’t afford not to network.

Investing the time to develop a robust network at the beginning of your career gives you a huge advantage over your peers who don’t take the time to network. This is because the contacts you develop through networking can be a constant source of inspiration and encouragement to you all throughout the different phases of your career.

For example, what would you do if the company you work for right after college goes bankrupt or shuts down your first month on the job? If you haven’t invested any time in building a network, you would have to start your job search all over again. If you have taken the time to meet some people in your industry already, then you can turn to them for advice. It may not seem like much to you now, but if you suddenly find yourself out of work, you’ll learn how comforting and helpful a network can be.

Down the road, you or your spouse may decide to stay home for a few years with a young child. Being plugged into a strong network means you may find ways to make a steady income working from home as a consultant to those who know and trust your work. And you may be offered opportunities that will make it much easier to re-enter the workforce after a hiatus of several years.

Think about it this way, developing a strong network now is like taking out an insurance policy on your career. If you find yourself out of work unexpectedly or if you want to find a more challenging position, having a network of contacts means you have a good place to start searching for what you’re looking for. You have people to turn to for assistance. Without a network of people who know and trust you, you are just one more job applicant out of hundreds or thousands looking for the same type of position.

In addition, and especially important at the start of your career, having a strong network means having more opportunities to find and reach out to people that can be mentors. Focusing on building your network at an early age, or in the early stages of your career, means you’re more likely to create a larger and more diverse network.

Anne Brown is a former journalist who became involved in writing about career development and success strategies after gaining experience in a wide variety of fields and industries herself. Anne has worked for universities, non-profits, start-ups, and large corporations. She’s worked in offices as large as tens of thousands, and for firms of less than ten. Currently, Anne is a Senior Web Producer and Project Manager for Sender LLC, a design and digital brand consultancy in Chicago. She is also the founder of and co-author of Grad to Great (Dalidaze Press, 2007).