Based on my education and experience, my number one recommendation for recent high school graduates, individuals who are currently continuing their education and those who are interested in growing their career is to BUILD YOUR NETWORK! I have confirmed the advice that it’s not always about what you know, but, in many situations, can be who you know that matters in growing your career!
The best way to start building your network is to connect with individuals who are in the field that you want to be in, or who are working toward entering the same field as you. Of course you can connect through social and professional networking sites like Linked In or Facebook, but I also highly recommend joining and participating in professional membership groups, attending seminars, classes and events related to your field, and, if possible, completing internships. Even though some of the people you connect with now might not be what you would consider influential or important, some day you might apply for a job and find out that someone you met at a seminar is the hiring manager, or that a connection through Linked In, or old college buddy, is an employee who can give you a good reference to the hiring manager!
My recommendation to complete internships really hits home with me, because I, unfortunately, only held one internship directly after the undergraduate program at the University of Iowa. I say, “unfortunately”, because that opportunity grew from a three month internship to a contract opportunity that lasted over a year; and it paved the way for MANY other future opportunities in my field. I was fortunate to grow my HR network immensely and have many great learning experiences during that internship. In fact, I would argue that time spent in an internship could be THE most valuable time for learning about your field and growing your network. I say this because it is my experience that there is very little expectation of interns, so there is a tremendous opportunity to ask questions, get mentors, and learn how to grow within your field, without being expected to already know everything! If you can get into multiple internships throughout your education, the potential for growing your network and knowledge could be multiplied exponentially, not only because you could meet more people in different organizations, but because you could take your internship experience back to the classroom for a new perspective on the information being taught. If I would’ve applied for and been accepted to more than one, post-college, internship, my learning experiences would’ve been much greater and the growth of my professional network would’ve started much earlier.
After my HR internship, I accepted a short-term position in Mortgage, but during this time, I advised my managers that it was my goal to get back into Human Resources. So, I applied for every HR opportunity I found. I was willing to interview with any company and for any position that would call me back, even if I knew that it wasn’t a good fit, just to have the opportunity to meet the hiring managers and to get interviewing experience. It’s a small world out there, and when you focus your network on a certain industry or specialty, it gets even smaller! Eventually, the network and experience that I had built through many interviews, professional events, classes, seminars and volunteer opportunities, helped me to land a great contract opportunity with a great company. After proving myself, that contract opportunity turned into a full time position with HP (don’t be afraid to take risks to prove yourself and get your foot in the door)!
About the Author:
Dan Miller is an exceptional talent acquisition specialist focused on continuous improvement and growth in all other facets of HR and business leadership. He is currently a Senior HR Generalist at Hewlett-Packard.