Why Networking Should be a Required Course in College

For the new graduate today getting a job is unbelievably tough. Sure, we hear that the unemployment rate has dropped but still, the unemployment rate for young people 18-29 is about 11% and, of course, that doesn’t include those young folks that were never on the rolls to begin with (i.e. haven’t yet obtained their first job, working off the books, part-time, etc.).

It’s not a pretty picture and with the amount of student loan debt that is coming due, well, the economic ramifications are incredibly dire.

And don’t think that these kids aren’t trying to land a job. I’m the mom of one of those kids. Armed with an undergraduate degree from a top college and a master’s from a university ranked as one of the highest in the world he is diligent in his attempts to land a position somehow within his choice of career, a career that is truly his passion.

Diligent. Sure.

But there is a job-hunting basic that is not in his repertoire and for me, an inveterate networker, it seems that it would be the most important tactic of all.

Networking.

Graduates emerge from the cocoon of college and have the optimal skills to traverse the digital world. They jump onto job boards with amazing optimism.

The scour the internet and send scores of emails to nameless, faceless hiring managers who find hundreds, if not thousands, of these emails waiting for them. It can be overwhelming. (Ex., about a year ago I helped a friend recruit and hire a receptionist. I posted the job and included very definitive parameters outlining the exact applicant that we were looking for. Within hours I had hundreds of replies and I soon wearied of opening them. What did I do? I reached out to my own network and asked if anyone “knew someone” that could satisfactorily meet the requirements of the job. The job board was time consuming and ultimately unsuccessful. The job was filled through networking. And no, they didn’t want to use a staffing firm!

So why is it that colleges don’t include Networking 101 as a required course? We owe it to our graduates to give them the tools that they need to obtain a good job.

Linkedin is a great start and many grads are using it somewhat successfully. Some are reaching out to their alumni networks and even attend alumni get-togethers. Meetups are popular and often attract young people as well.

But parlaying the contacts made online, looking for 6-degree of separation connections, asking for referrals, having a game plan that includes a specific number of outreach phone calls and coffee dates per month, well, the strategy and tactics on how to do that successfully takes a wee bit of education…education that they are not receiving.

So I propose:

• Business Networking 101 and 201 should be required college courses.
• Colleges and universities should “stage” mock networking events on a regular basis.
• In order to graduate, every student must be able to create and deliver a persuasive 30-second elevator pitch.
• Graduates should be required to search out and attend at least two networking events in the month prior to graduation. (No networking events in the area? What an awesome opportunity to create one!)
• Networking “gurus” should be brought to campus to provide students with a “real-life” perspective on how to integrate networking into their job search efforts.

C’mon folks. We simply have to expose our young people to success strategies and in the real world networking is one of the key tools to success.

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