How to Use Your "New Grad" Status to Meet the People Who Will Change Your Life
Neha Sampat is the Cofounder and CEO of Built.io, a cloud-based, API-first enterprise suite that accelerates digital transformation through iPaaS, Headless CMS, and mBaaS. Neha was named a “San Francisco Business Times 40 under 40” honoree and one of “50 Women in Tech Dominating Silicon Valley” in 2015, to name two of the many accomplishments she has had in her career. She is also an advocate for nurturing the future female leaders in her industry.
You’ve just graduated and you’re on top of the world. Now what? Post graduation, you might feel like a fish out of water. In a sense it’s kind of like you’re a freshman in the class of real life.
The job search process can be challenging when the “experience” hiring managers value feels unattainable. How can you be expected to get experience without any experience in the first place? At times you may feel you’re at a major disadvantage by being a newbie to the real working world, but there is no better time to use your “new grad” status to meet the first series of people who will change your life’s trajectory. Here’s how.
Ask for the Unlikely Meeting.
Identify a list of people you’d like to meet. Perhaps it’s the founder of a local startup, or maybe an executive of a Fortune 1000 company. You’d be surprised how much people ⎻ at any level ⎻ crave the opportunity to mentor or support a young, talented and determined person. There’s an energy most individuals get from helping someone that they can’t get from anyone else. Take intimidation off the table and remember that you are likely flattering someone by asking them if you can take them to coffee or lunch in exchange for career advice. When I started my career in PR, I remember asking the head of a PR firm out to coffee to pick her brain about a career path in PR. Two months later, she called me to ask if I wanted a job at her agency. If you already have a job, consider doing this with people who are two or more levels up within your organization. Using your new grad status to ask an executive for career advice could lead to a mentor, an internal champion or even a lifelong coach as you continue on your journey.
Utilize Your Peer Network.
Study groups and late night sessions at the college pub are becoming distant memories. Meanwhile, as you and your closest college friends embark on the real world, consider staying in touch regularly enough to help each other transition to this new life. Engaging with your alumni network is also a fantastic way to meet new people and receive career advice. Once I established a close network, I participated in a program called “Hotseat” that promotes the encouragement and empowerment of four close peers. Over the course of one year, these four individuals meet monthly to discuss how each person will accomplish a major personal stretch goal. This peer motivation helped me eventually switch my career from product management to building a multimillion dollar web channel! Establish a long-term goal and find a group of people to help you get there.
Explore, Observe and Learn.
This may be your last chance to use the “young and inexperienced” card to explore multiple career paths. Once you’re a couple of years into a job, the cost of career switching becomes higher. For your first couple years as a new grad, you have the undisputed liberty to explore what’s out there and pave your path accordingly. Use this time to explore various opportunities and see what draws you in. Ask friends, their bosses, their older siblings and people you admire if you can shadow them at work. Attend industry conferences and events, go to meetups that are peripherally related to your interests, and join webinars and podcasts where you can interact with industry experts and peers who have similar interests. As a PR person, I was lucky enough to be exposed to several product managers on the job. As these relationships strengthened, I was led down the path of a career in technology products and I’ve never looked back. You never know when you might connect with someone who will impact your life’s trajectory.
Throughout the rest of your life you will look back on this time as a period of self-growth and learning. You won't regret being spontaneous and outgoing in order to meet new people and grow your network. Post-graduation is such an exciting time, so make the most of it, take intimidation off the table, remain persistent and value yourself and prioritize your path forward.