This is a question asked at all university lectures I give and is a valid one. Though, in reality how much does networking work for recent college graduates?

Contrary to popular belief it is NOT as highly effective a tool when compared to other avenues, such as applying directly to hiring companies or recruiters whether it be through LinkedIn LNKD +1.53%, or even taking the time to increase one’s GPA or internship experience.

The Basic Networking Principle for Recent Graduates and Young Professionals

It’s not about who you know. It’s about who knows you and what you can do for them – At a young age, as a recent college graduate you are yet to make a name for yourself, therefore when you engage someone to “network,” you must have a purpose as to how you can meet their needs.

This is the first hurdle. Networking is a hierarchy. Since everyone is trying to reach their own goals, individuals will actively seek out others who can help them achieve their desired results and everyone else will take a backseat (in most circumstances).

Think about this: when you look at a picture of your family or a group of friends, who do you see first? The answer is that we typically look at ourselves because that is who we are most concerned with.

Maybe it’s a human flaw, but it’s the way people think and you can leverage this knowledge to be successful at networking. Therefore, to gain traction you first must understand the goals of the person you’re approaching and how you can help them achieve what they are seeking to accomplish.

Start by visualizing what you would like if you were that individual. For instance:

  • If you’re networking with an entrepreneur, that person wants someone who can bring fresh ideas and make the company money.
  • If you’re networking with a HR rep, that person simply wants to fill a job with an employee who can perform the tasks required.
  • If you’re networking with a sales manager, that person simply wants employees who are hunters and who can increase their territory sales.

At a young age, you’re not always going to be able to deliver on what these individuals want…not yet anyway. Instead of getting discouraged, use the energy as a motivator to gain the necessary skills and eventually you will be of significant use to a lot of important decision makers.

The Unwritten Rule of Networking

The rule of thumb is that you can only contact a person one time (unless they are a personal contact / family contact) and that individual will typically put you off their radar if they don’t find you compelling (or your skills compelling enough)…instantaneously.

Think one shot, one kill. Therefore, network when you’re ready and able to deliver results that individuals actively need. It’s okay to start small and work your way up. Rome was not built in a day nor will your network be.

Then, when it’s time to network, do it correctly. Do your research on the individuals. Before contacting them, write down 5 goals you would want to achieve if you were that individual. Once you know someone’s motivators, you know how to effectively approach networking.

In reality, networking is best done when you make a name for yourself in an industry. The issue is that 100′s of individuals are trying to network with the same people, but their approach often comes across as “I want a job from you,” rather than, “This is what I can do for you.”

People who “want” don’t become successful. People who earn viable skills through hard work, passion and dedication are the ones that everyone bends over backwards to network with.