College seniors are staring the real world in the face. In less than 90 days, most seniors will be crossing the stage and leaving the safe world of academia and diving into their first career. Some seniors have their plan on lock. Others have no idea and may not be worried about it. No matter where you stand, it may be helpful to start building up your arsenal of contacts and information about possible paths you may see yourself heading down.
Contacts are your career currency.
You may only have been on the planet for 22 years but you should have 150 personal contacts that you have developed throughout your years. Spend a day combing through all your Facebook friends, email addresses, year-books and family contacts to build your true contact list. This would be a list of people you can reach out to and based on a relationship would meet you for a cup of coffee to discuss ideas, give feedback or introduce you to people who can help you in your post graduate endeavors.
Your contacts are your career currency. Just like it is important to start saving money early in your career, because of the power of compounding, contacts can operate in the same way. If you foster relationships in your early career years the networking web effect can expand more rapidly, introducing you to people degrees away from your natural circle of friends, colleagues and family.
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After you have discovered the 150 to 200 contacts in your networks that you know would at least have a phone conversation with you based on one layer of commonality or prior relationship, start to group them by profession or industry. The key here is to find contacts who may have graduated a few years before you did or college friends who have done extensive internships. Also think of family members or parents of friends that are in the industries you are thinking about.
Group your contacts by which people may be able to help you learn more about a certain profession or have the contacts to help you really understand what a career path looks in that field. From there you can create a “career survey” or a list of questions that would be helpful for you to learn more about what really goes on in their position and what hiring managers typically look for. The most important question to ask may be, “What transferrable skills does this position give someone in case they want to be an entrepreneur in the future or change out of the industry?”
Lastly, as you wrap up the survey ask your contacts, “Who comes to mind that may be able to also provide some advice or feedback as I explore career opportunities?” There you go - you just compounded a contact.
Related: Starting Up Right Out of College