Building a professional network takes time and effort, but many Millennials do little to take advantage of opportunities to tap individuals who might help their careers. This point of view is supported by agency and corporate executives I’ve talked with over the past several months. All are surprised with the laissez-faire attitudes towards effective networking.
This isn’t a new development. In fact, when I headed an agency that actually was hiring entry-level staff several years ago, I spoke to PR and marketing students at several universities. I developed the One-in-20 Theory, and it still holds true today. Only one in 20 students actually follows up with professionals he or she meets. And that ratio is only slightly higher for young professionals, too. Why?
“Very few entry level job candidates are assertive in pursuing roles that they want — or even in proactive networking,” explains Paul Rand, founder and CEO of Zocalo Group. ” Those who do follow up have an extraordinary advantage. All of us remember what it is like to start a career and want to be of help. Take advantage of this.”
During a recent visit to Zocalo’s office, my class was challenged by Paul to connect with him and his colleagues via email or LinkedIn. He told them that he makes this offer to every group he meets with, but he generally hears from no more than one industrious student. I thought Paul’s challenge would bring a flood of follow ups, but during the ensuing seven days Paul says he only heard from three students. He says this is “three times more than usually follow up.”
Gary Slack, founder and Chief Experience Officer of Slack & Company, got a slightly better response when he offered to become LinkedIn with any of the 21 students reaching out to him. Only a handful did so–and some of them have been invited to interview for openings at the B2B firm. That’s how it works.
Noting that his daughter is a college junior currently, Paul Rand says, “I’m a broken record with her when it comes to pursuing opportunities — ‘don’t be shy about showing your interest. Ask for the meeting. Practice what you want to say. Show a genuine interest in the person’s job. Stay in touch.’ I see how hard it is for her to have the confidence to reach out. However, oftentimes, mustering up this confidence is the difference in getting/not getting what you want.”