Congratulations, you’ve finally crossed the stage and that college diploma is in the mail! What now? If you’re like many, you’re probably starting to apply for jobs, or maybe you’re an overachiever and you’ve already landed a job…or maybe you’re taking the leap and creating your own job (if this is you, give yourself a pat on the back, you’re in for a long road ahead). Whatever the case may be, it’s time to talk about one of the most important things that will carry you forth in your career, and that’s how to growth hack your network.
“Let me be clear about engaging with influencers in your value stream: this should be giving more than taking.”
Growth hacking is a pretty popular concept in the startup world, and a term you should become intimately familiar with if you’re planning to start your own business. It’s about growing your customer base through unconventional marketing channels, and is typically done for free or at a very low cost. So how can we apply this concept to a new, post-college world and grow our network?
1. Get Your Social Media Game On-Point
Many of the tips floating around every other post-college, job-hunting blog apply. If you don’t have a LinkedIn, it’s time to get one and make sure it’s fully up-to-date. Whatever other social media accounts you have, it’s time to clean them up. Any photos where you’re half-naked with a red-solo cup in your hand are probably better left on your hard drive, or possibly even deleted depending on how droopy your eye look. DO NOT set your “unprofessional” photos to private and assume the people you don’t want to see them won’t be able to. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and typically that just involves your future employer finding a mutual friend. Do yourself a favor and just take them down, you’ll survive and thank yourself later.
2. Start Engaging with Others Your Value Stream
While 4 years of college may make you feel like somewhat of an expert, there’s a good chance you’ve still got a ways to go. Even if you just received your PhD, there is still a lot more work to put in before you can truly be considered a thought leader in your field. This doesn’t mean you can’t contribute.
Whether you’re an engineer, accountant, or underwater basket weaver, there’s a network out there for you. The easiest and most readily available way of connecting to these networks is through social media, with Twitter and LinkedIn being the preferred choice. Even if you’re not an expert, you can still engage by sharing insightful content from experts/influencers in your field and by contributing to the conversation (asking questions). If you’re smart about it, you’ll start sharing content and engaging with specific people you want to engage with, maybe the head of HR for the company you’re trying to get a job with. You can do this through LinkedIn groups related to your value stream, or Twitter hashtags that relate.
Let me be clear about engaging with influencers in your value stream: this should be giving more than taking. Questions like “are you guys hiring?” sends a clear signal about what you’re after and is never how you should begin engaging with someone. Instead, try finding articles or news stories they might be interested in. If you’re going to ask questions, inflate their ego a bit by appealing to their authority. For example, on Twitter you could say something like “I just saw _____ on the news. I’m curious, what’s your opinion about it @expertgal?” The more you do this, the more influencers you’ll connect with, and the more people will begin to recognize you.
3. Attend Events Related to, but Not Necessarily Part of Your Value Stream
Professional conferences can be great for connecting with a lot of other people in your same field, but it’s not always the easiest to make strong connections, as half the people are just there because they wanted to get out of the office for a few days while still getting paid. Attending more informal, grass-roots events can be a much a better way to growth hack your network. Think things like Ted Talks, lecturer series, expos, book signings, grand openings, launch parties, etc. You may not be able to connect with people directly in your value stream, but a strong network is about meeting people from all disciplines. Chances are, if you can meet an influencer in another value stream, they’re going to know someone in yours. The other nice thing about this is that by connecting with people outside your value stream, you won’t feel the same pressure to try line up a job with them or things of that nature.
I realize if you’re a fresh college grad, finding out about these things might take a little digging, and getting an invite may be even more difficult. Do your research though. Between social media and Google search, you can find out nearly anything you want to about something or someone. Typically it just takes one good connection that will help connect you to others.
So once again, congratulations graduates. You’ve worked hard and I’m sure it will all pay off in the long run. Be smart and start growth hacking your network, it will be the foundation of what you carries you forward.
What steps you have successful in building your network? Please feel free to share in the comments below.