I was recently asked to help soon-to-graduate business majors from California Lutheran University navigate the world of landing, keeping and excelling at their first professional jobs.  The event was called Paths to Professionalism and I had some great company as Jason Carigan of Vapur and Dena Jenson of the Ventura County Community Foundation joined me in offering tips and strategies from our experiences.

We got some great feedback from the students, so I’m pretty sure we hit our mark, but I also think many of the ideas are applicable to small business owners looking to inexpensively make a huge impact, so I thought I’d share some highlights.

In preparing for the event, I kept coming back to the idea that if I was starting out looking to become an A+ player in a field, I’d focus on networking… and not just your typical writing-status updates-on-Facebook type networking, but a high-powered, all-in networking designed to connect me with high profile people in the field I wanted to enter.   I called it Relentless Networking and here’s what it means to me:

  • Take HUGE Risks.   Especially for someone just getting out of college, it will never be easier to reach out to influential people and get them to do favors for you.  Look for successful Alumni who are active on Twitter and strike up a conversation… Let them know you’re actively looking for a position and my gut says 9 out of 10 times, they’ll be looking for ways to help you!
  • Reach out to Influentials.   Again, focus on an “aspirational” social network like Twitter where it’s common for people to network with people outside of their “friends” and start engaging with the leaders of the field.   Want to talk to one of the most brilliant business leaders I’ve ever met?   I’ve never seen our CEO Jeff Stibel ignore an interesting question on Twitter!
  • Build Authority.  There is no simpler or cheaper way to build authority (plus learn about aspects of online marketing like SEO, SEM, Social Networking, etc.) than self-publishing. Start a blog… and commit to writing on a daily basis.  As someone looking to break into an industry, you almost definitely have more time than money.  Take advantage of it!
  • Over-Promise.  No kidding.  I find that when I over-promise it forces me to be super-creative in developing solutions.   Don’t know exactly how you’re going to accomplish something?  Don’t sweat it as long as you’re willing to put in the time to figure it out!

Having interviewed dozens of recent grads recently (Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp has been hiring like crazy lately and still lots of open positions to fill!), I can positively say that the potential recruits who are likely to be A+ players in the marketing space in the future inevitably are relentless networkers.

For those looking for a bit more, here’s the entire presentation I gave to the CLU School of Management:

And, of course, much thanks to the CLU Career Center team (including Cindy Lewis pictured above) for inviting me to the speak.

Do you have some advice for people looking to break into a new profession?   Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!