Seniors put their networking skills to the test

Seniors find LinkedIn, Handshake and email correspondence to be effective ways of job hunting during the pandemic. Sarah Pinkerton | Photographer

By Vivian Roach | Desk Editor

With graduation only months away, seniors are racing to land their first job out of college. Whether lightly jogging or sprinting to the finish line, personal connections with recruiters and employees have been more effective for some students than trying to express themselves only through lists of achievements and qualifications.

Nacogdoches senior Caleigh Dalton said she is more introverted and wasn’t comfortable “pitching” herself at first. However, since freshman year, she has been going to the Baylor career fair to practice. She said she also practiced “selling herself” on a smaller level by landing several local small business internships.

But when that time came to put practice into play, Dalton said she made authenticity her focus when building her network of contacts. She said she didn’t actually like the idea of networking at first because it sounded so fake.

Dalton changed that perspective by setting her intention to create a relationship with her connections. She said she wanted to get to know them and the positions at the company.

“It’s definitely been a learning process, but being yourself and being authentic to the recruiters, it really comes across in a cool way,” Dalton said. “It means a lot to them.”

For example, at an information session, Dalton said she reached back out over email to a recruiter on the call that made an impression on her.

“The recruiter and I were emailing back and forth, building a relationship, and every once in a while, I would be like, ‘Oh can you tell me more about this particular position? What are you looking for?’ Then, eventually the recruiter was like, ‘As soon as the application comes out about this position, I’m going to let you know.’”

Additionally, she said by using LinkedIn search features, she had leads with Baylor alumni at companies that appealed to her.

“You can search by school on LinkedIn. So, that’s what I would do. I would search by Baylor, and then I can put it by location, by company, by position,” Dalton said.

Searching by position in a certain location will produce a list of people who match the search. Dalton said she would make a note of people’s names and then draft a message asking if they would be willing to talk, text, email or Zoom to answer a few questions about their job.

She said she found that if someone has a mutual connection to you, like going to the same university, there was a much better chance of getting a response from them.

“Baylor has really instilled the Baylor family mentality in students, and I see that carried out in alumni who are willing to help people who are at Baylor,” Dalton said.

West Bend, Wis., senior Tim Schmidt said he’s been using a similar process, making personal connections with professionals in his field of work and learning about the different job positions.

“It’s an opportunity for you to gain valuable information that you can present in a job interview,” Schmidt said. “And it also helps to develop a rapport, just to get a professional relationship with the person you’re talking to … Even if they don’t have any job openings left at the moment. Then if you continue to stay in touch with them, you’re going to be one of the people they think of when a job opens up.”

Schmidt is studying mechanical engineering and said his biggest lead right now is actually from a connection he made the spring of his junior year. He said he has since stayed in contact by discussing a software recommendation and asked for job advice.

Recently, Schmidt was offered a tour of the Plano company and at the end was told he would have an employee referral if he applied.

“Ultimately, when you know someone at the company, and they know you, they feel they can trust you, that you’re a reliable, independent person, a dependable person,” Schmidt said. “That’s going to be so much more powerful than just a name on a piece of paper.”

Another strategy Schmidt put into play on his job hunt came from the book “The Two Hour Job Search” by Steve Dalton.

“His approach is that you basically come up with a list of employers that you’d want to work for, that you organize based on your motivation to want to apply, if there are relevant alumni or in a professional context, who would be easy to approach there. And if they have any relevant job openings,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said he went to LinkedIn to find employees that matched specifications relevant to him. It was these small tweaks, he said, that proved much more successful than just submitting tons of job applications on sites like LinkedIn, Handshake and Career Shift.