How to Leverage Your College Contacts

Jump starting a job search or starting a new business is no easy feat. You can, however, make the taking the leap easier by utilizing your valuable personal connections. For most people, their undergraduate connections span the widest array of disciplines and career paths and comprise the largest group of potential networking opportunities. Businesses and successful careers are built by individuals who know the value of networking, who understand that one person can seldom get anything as complex or challenging as a new business to succeed. Some people might feel guilty exploiting personal relationships for professional gain, but this shouldn’t be the case. The simple truth is that help is hard to come by and seldom given freely by strangers. Of course, there’s a right way and wrong way to go about approaching people you know. Here are some useful tips on how to leverage your college contacts:

Stay connected.
The most important thing you can do for your future career, whatever that might be, is make sure you stay well connected with potential movers and shakers in your areas of interest. Thanks to social media, it’s easier to do than ever before. Between Facebook and LinkedIn, which is specifically designed to foster social networking as it pertains to careers, connecting with old friends in privileged positions takes only a click.

Don’t delegate leveraging.
You can’t have people act on your behalf when it comes to leveraging contacts. Not only is it unnecessarily indirect, it defeats the purpose. How can you make use of personal relationships if you don’t actually have relationships with the people you’re hoping will help you out? Be sure to go the extra mile when it comes to extending yourself to others. People will appreciate the personal touch, and you might find yourself as the hinge connecting other people to each other as well.

Offer advice.
If people come to you for help, help them. It might seem like common courtesy, a simple, friendly gesture, but it can be what binds you to another person, a person who might be able to help you down the line when you need it. Demonstrating that you are a caring person and can elevate the needs of others above your own will show your ability to work with others, to provide assistance and guidance in a world increasingly dominated by the self-centered.

Know who can help you.
If you’re looking to leverage your contacts, assess who will be the best help depending on the situation. That doesn’t just mean people working in a field you’re directly interested in, but those who are perhaps more generous with their resources, or who have a special talent for cooperation and navigating social networks. Be aware of both the occupational and interpersonal talents your contacts possess.

Transparency is key.
Above all, don’t be afraid to be direct about what you want. After all, the last impression you want your contacts to have is that you are using them, that you are trying to siphon knowledge or resources from them without their knowledge. Most people will appreciate candor and respond in kind. Being direct will also ensure you’re not wasting anyone’s time; if someone isn’t interested in helping you achieve your goals, it’s best to move on to someone who is.


About the Author:

Logan Harper is the Community Manager for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Government’s online MPA programs. He also loves television, travel and technology. Follow him on Twitter @harperlogan.

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