Whitney Danhauer

Spin Sucks Question: Business Networking Advice for College Grads

By: Whitney Danhauer | April 12, 2019 | 
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business networkingAs much as I love the excitement of fall and back-to-school, I love May even more.

Graduation is just around the corner, and an entire summer brimming with possibility is looming on the horizon.

And this is all coming from someone who graduated years ago.

I guess now it’s more like second-hand excitement, but it’s still there.

If graduation is on your calendar in a few weeks, I thought one of the best gifts Spin Sucks could give you is advice on your new careers.

It can be tough dipping your toes into the big pond of communications agencies, and this is where business networking and connections come in.

That’s why we asked this for the #SpinSucksQuestion:

With graduation coming up, what advice would you give communications grads for networking? Where do you find the most value?

I know I always say how great everyone’s answers are each week, but the answers this week are golden.

So much value in one community! (If you’re not a part of our Spin Sucks community, you can be! Join here. It’s free!)

Now, on with the show.

Network on Social Media

Michael Roach suggested polishing up their LinkedIn profiles:

For communications graduates, I’d say for them to spiffy up their LinkedIn profiles. Since some new grads don’t have tons of work experience, I suggest talking up their previous internship opportunities. Write or rewrite those important responsibilities or duties performed there.

They should also stay away from using an “Actively seeking…” headline in their LinkedIn profile. It spells desperation, even though they are actively looking. Instead, they could be specific about the job they’re looking to land, or come up with a creative headline like, “Future Communications Director” or play it straight with the function instead of the title, like “Communications”, or “Public Relations”.

Chip Griffin mentioned LinkedIn as well, among other things:

Leverage LinkedIn, your school’s career center, and alumni affairs office to find alumni from your school who are in roles/companies similar to what you are seeking. Most alums—even ones in pretty senior roles—will talk to a fresh graduate.

Use Your Current Connections

Emily Ho had great advice on how to get more interviews:

Networking has been the key to nearly every job I’ve gotten, and it all started with a mentor in undergrad. He introduced me to five people he knew that worked in PR, advertising, and marketing, and provided a warm introduction. I conducted informational interviews with them: went in with a list of questions about their work, careers, likes and dislikes of the field, etc. At the end of each interview, I asked if they had any other people they would introduce me to. It rolled into at least 30 informational interviews with people I now consider friends over 15 years later. Many of them passed my name along, and sent me messages anytime they heard about a job. I eventually found my first job, after being directly referred from one of these interviews—the job wasn’t listed anywhere.

In business school, I did the same thing, but with people who came to speak to our class. When informational interviews didn’t get their attention, I would ask to shadow them for a few hours, or ask if they had any projects that could use a fresh set of eyes. I ended up delivering a project plan for one of the interviewees mentioned, and getting a job that wasn’t listed.

No matter what, I tell graduates to approach everything with sincerity and curiosity. Never go into it with a “what’s in it for me” attitude.

Don’t Consider It Business Networking

Amber Pechin pointed out that networking is a lot like making friends:

Approach every interaction as an opportunity to build relationships. Don’t network—make friends. The people who network at networking events are the ones no one wants to talk to. You know the ones—they shake your hand, tell you about themselves, talk to you long enough to assess if you’re “important enough” to keep talking to, and then give you a business card and move on.

Be interested in people and look for opportunities to connect on a human level. As a new grad, you likely have human experience with most business’s primary audience in a way they don’t.

Be relatable and real. Be willing to ask questions. Saying, “I don’t really know much about (whatever industry), but I’d love to learn more about how you got involved, or how you overcame communication challenges in your industry. Can we talk more about that over coffee sometime soon”—will take you a long way.

Attend professional events—not just PRSA or AIGA—but whatever industry you’re interested in working in. If you like tech, then find tech events in your community.

Follow up. Remember what you talked about, and reach out with an interesting article or question or a simple, “it was great to talk to you about your business. Thank you so much for your time”.

A Little Thank You Goes a Long Way

Mary Barber reminded us that little items, like thank you notes, can go a long way:

Students should research the alumni from their school who work for companies, or live in cities where they want to live, and reach out to them to see if they can buy them coffee to learn more about the company and opportunities. Send thank you notes (not email), and stay in touch.

Attend local PRSA, AMA, or other organization events, and introduce yourself to those attending. Exchange business cards and set up coffee meeting. Again…thank you notes and stay in touch.

Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks

The one piece of advice I always give new grads is to not be afraid to take risks.

Yeah, yeah—it sounds cliche and corny, but I stand by it.

And the risks you take can be part of your business networking.

For instance, we have a lot of amazing resources in the Spin Sucks community, and the only way you’re going to really get connected is if you get involved.

So, participate when you can.

Your point of view is always welcome.

We want you guys to succeed!

If you didn’t get a chance to answer the question this week, keep an eye out for a new one on Monday.

I’d love to hear your answers.

You can leave them in the Spin Sucks community or in the comments below.

About Whitney Danhauer


Whitney is living in Central Kentucky with her husband, Michael and her daughter, Evie Rose. She's an avid reader, an even more avid movie watcher, and loves nothing more than a well-placed pop culture reference. By day she writes about all things communications for Spin Sucks, by night she writes about whatever she wants. Her first novel, Good Riddance, was released in October of 2015.