If you’re like me (or most college students), you most likely graduated college without a particular career track in mind. Sure, you might have had a vague idea of what you wanted to do (social sciences or creative arts) or a low tier communications or psychology degree, but you most likely had no idea how to apply these soft skills. The best advice your college career center likely had for you was to network, as in go out and meet people who could magically give you a job, and you quickly realized that networking is bullshit for recent college graduates.
But with anyone with a year or two of post-college experience can tell you, that’s kind of bullshit. In fact, it’s straight bullshit. Networking is bullshit for recent college graduates for a number of reasons, mostly of which comes down to that you have nothing interesting to offer. With that in mind, here’s what you can do to get to the stage of your professional life where networking actually matters.
Do Irrelevant Shit for the First Few Years Out of College
Despite what’s drilled in to us, life is not a race against others. It’s only a race against your own sense of self-worth. After I graduated college, I would ask constantly ask myself the question “is your life better than it was a year ago?” And often the answer was no. That made me feel badly at the time, but it also just meant I wasn’t ready or capable to live the life that I wanted to lead yet. Or rather I didn’t know what that kind of life even looked like.
Instead, I took some pretty shitty jobs. I was a security guard at soccer games and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I drove a medical van and worked as an unlicensed cardio technician. I was a cold-call salesman at a failing comic book company where I never made a dime. I did some low-level marketing work for a local business. I even started my own video game journalism publication. But most of all, I figured out the things I didn’t want to do, and more importantly I had context for them.
Take That Irrelevant Shit and Cobble it Together to Form Something Cohesive
Despite attending numerous networking events during this time, I still didn’t really have anything to offer. Sometimes, I still wonder if I do. But instead of leaning into my latest gig at Chipotle, I just applied for more jobs. Eventually I landed on an executive assistant gig (which eventually turned into a marketing job) at a medical staffing company. Very exciting, I know. But knowing that networking is bullshit for recent college graduates, I just applied anyway, among thousands of other jobs.
For some reason, the boss’ son called me back and hired me after three rounds of interviews all in the span of three days. It wasn’t the job I wanted, but it was the job I needed. I made it work by applying all of my previous experience into a cohesive whole. I worked there for a bit under seven months. My boss’ son, who managed the operations of the company, was a psycho. He was the kind of guy who asks you to work on a Saturday and then pulls up an hour late in his BMW. The kind of guy that has no awareness of the type of position he was in.
But I learned a lot from him. I learned exactly the kind of person I didn’t want to be, the kind of environment I didn’t want to work in. In my current remote job the very idea of ever being beholden to such an odious figure keeps me motivated and sane. Better to be writing this on a cruise ship to Rome than a sterile office where your coworkers are twice your age, after all.
Realize Networking Is Bullshit For Recent College Graduates Until People Want to Connect With You
As John Mayer said, “there’s no such thing as the real world.” Realistically, you’re not actually going to live your life to the fullest. Nobody actually does. But what you can do is not waste your immediate time after college networking unless you already have a hard skill set. But for those of us with a soft skill set, it’s better to throws shit at the wall until it sticks. And then cultivate that shit into a career or at least a skill set that you can be proud of so that people actually want to talk to you.
Just as in the stock market, there are ups and or downs and even crashes in your post-college search for a career. But all of those valleys will ultimately lead to peaks if you work smart and figure out the kind of lifestyle you want to lead. Everything else is secondary.