As the calendar turns from July to August, students everywhere are gearing up to go back to school. For recent graduates, this is the first time they will swap their classroom desks for cubicles in the “real world.” If you are a recent graduate looking for the first step in your career, the importance of networking cannot be stressed enough. Given the competitive nature of the job hunt, figuring out how to stand out becomes crucial.

According to Front Office Sports, one out of every 200 resumes results in a job offer, but one out of every 12 informational interviews results in an offer. What does this mean for job seekers? Networking is the way to take your job search to the next level.

Although it is commonly perceived as something only done when looking for a job, networking takes place at all stages of your career. While it is often an awkward experience, networking doesn’t have to be as difficult or daunting as it is thought to be. For recent grads looking for a job, building a network can be the first step in finding your career fit.

If you’re a recent grad on the job search, check out some networking tips from Forbes Contributor Frances Bridges:

Networking Can Just Be Making Friends

Networking is often seen as a contrived, transactional process. Believe it or not, not all networking needs to end in a job offer. In fact, it rarely does. If you’ve already landed a job, this is a way to engage with coworkers and connect with other like-minded individuals within your industry. In doing so, these relationships can be more valuable than the relationships you build up the ladder. According to Bridges, your peers can be the first ones to think of you when there is a job opening, or be a soundingboard for when work is difficult. Your relationship with them is just as important as your relationship with your boss.

Be Intentional With Your Events

When it comes to networking events, selecting which ones to go to comes down to quality over quantity. Don’t sign up for events just for the sake of doing so. If you want to connect with professionals within a specific industry or at a certain company, there are events at which you can do just that. Often times these events have a list of companies that will be represented, so you can decide whether or not you want to attend before signing up blindly. What can you do instead? Try reaching out to industry professionals you’d like to connect with via email or LinkedIn InMail.

Introduce Yourself At The End Of Events

There serial-position effect is a psychological term that refers to the tendency of a person to recall the first and last items in a series best, and the middle items worst. Broken down further, the primacy effect refers to remembering things that happen first, while the recency effect is when people remember things that happened at the end of an event.

That said, when introducing yourself to people at networking events, you should introduce yourself to people at the end so they remember you better. If you make a good impression at the end of the event, they are more likely to remember you compared to introducing yourself at the beginning.

It’s All For Nothing If You Don’t Follow-Up

As we mentioned in last week’s featured article (Want To Get Hired? Don’t Forget This Simple Task), following up is a key way to stand out in both the job search and networking. If you make a good connection with someone through your networking, make the effort to follow-up and stay in touch. If anything, just stay relevant to them because it is hard enough to make connections, but pretty easy to lose them. You don’t want to gain a reputation of being someone who only reaches out to connections when you need something (a job, introduction, etc.). Fostering and maintaining your networking relationships is as, if not more, important than making that initial connection.

Wrap Up

If you’re a recent graduate looking for your first “real world” job and are frustrated with the job search, it might be time to take a step back and focus on your networking efforts. Thanks to these tips from Frances Bridges (read the full article here), you can use networking as a way to stand out during your search.

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