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Using Your Contacts to Get a Job

Jun 26, 2014, 8:00:00 PM by Bryanna Davis

After graduation finding a job is hard. International students have developed many great contacts during their studies and should use them to find a job. See how you can get a job just from knowing who you know!


Using Your Contacts to Get a Job


Thank you for attending our Kickin’ it oldschool classroom series, I’m Bryanna Davis from If you’re currently looking for a job, or will be in the near future, we’re going to cover how you can get a job simply for knowing who you know- so how to use your contacts to get a job.

Have you ever heard the phrase “It’s not always what you know, but who you know.”? This phrase is the exact reason why you should use your contacts! Depending on how well the job is advertised and the size of the company the posting could receive hundreds and maybe even thousands of applicants- so you’ll have a lot of competition and having a degree to present to a potential employer isn’t going to be enough- you will need to make sure you have other areas that make you stand out also. Having been an international student you already have that going for you, and hopefully you have some great experience on your resume also. But having strong references can really help push you into the next category of the application process. For example, say your degree is in Journalism and you’ve previously had an internship at the New York Times. When you relocate to Boston and apply to work for the Boston Globe- you will want to use your previous New York Times supervisor as a reference. It might seem scary to ask them if you can use them as a reference, or you might think they won’t remember you, but chances are they will and they won’t mind at all.

This leads us into our next category- who to ask. As I’ve already touched on- past employers are a great place to start! If you don’t have any past employers that you think fit your resume, there are plenty of other options. You can also ask professors, academic advisors, resident hall advisors, and also past club sponsors. Club sponsors are especially great if it’s for a club that was relevant to your degree. For example, if you have a degree in broadcast media and you were highly active in the university television station- make sure you put that sponsor’s information on your job application or list of references. Now for those who have not yet graduated- I’m going to speak specifically to you for a moment. Make sure you are developing these types of relationships while you’re still in school. If none of your professors know your name, you won’t be able to use them as a reference later on down the road. Get to know them! Stay after class to introduce yourself or ask that question that you had about a recent assignment. This is perfectly acceptable at schools in the US and professors will more often than not be more than happy to help you. If you can’t catch a professor after class, visit them during their office hours.

Lets take a look at good practices when using your contacts. Firstly, only use contacts that you actually know. Second, make sure you treat the contacts you do have with the respect they deserve. Before you put your contacts down as references- ask them! If you list someone as a reference it means they are free game for your potential employer to call, so they more often than not they will get a call! Make sure that reference knows you listed them so they can be prepared if and when that call comes. If they aren’t aware of it, they might be pretty confused when they receive the call and won’t be able to give you as good of a review. So, for their benefit and yours, ask them before you add their name.

When it’s time to ask your contacts if you can use them as references, here are a few good things to keep in mind. Hopefully throughout your relationship with your reference you’ve built up a strong enough relationship that you aren’t too afraid to ask to put them on your reference list. However, sometimes there are those that can attest to your ability that aren’t as easy to talk to. For these individuals, take a moment and really consider what would be the best approach. Is it someone who doesn’t have a lot of free time and would prefer an email or is it someone that values that face-to-face time and would refer a coffee meeting up? Take the personality of the person you are wanting to add into consideration and use that information to your advantage.

As we’ve already mentioned, you will want to put your top candidates that can attest to your ability on your list of references. But, there are other ways to use your contacts. You’re not going to put every single great contact down as a reference. But, you can still find other ways to benefit from the good contacts you’ve established and it really comes down to keeping in touch. Here are a few ways that you can do this:

Add them on LinkedIN or Xing. If you’re not yet on linkedin there is no better time than now! If you join for no other reason than to keep your contacts organized, it’s reason enough!

Take them out to coffee. Establishing a new contact is only the first step, next you will still need to maintain that relationship. Taking them out to coffee is a great way to connect. Usually it’s a fairly quick gathering, but long enough for you both to catch up. At these meetings it will more than likely come up that you’re searching for a job and if your contact knows of any job openings that might be of interest to you. If you’re really lucky they will not only know of a job opening, but someone you can contact directly about it- which is a great way to get a job interview.

Lastly, make sure you show your appreciation. If your contact put in a good word for you at the company you got your job at- that’s something to show them appreciation for. Just as you would a friend, show that you appreciate their help with a thank you note or dinner and pay back that kindness in the future if possible! For example, next time you hear that they are making a career move reach out to them and see what it is they’re looking for and if you are able to put in a good word for them somewhere or direct them to one of your other contacts- do it.

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