On a recent flight from St Louis to Orlando, I sat behind two recent college grads grumbling about the economy and their apparent lack of job prospects.  

The data is ugly—more than 50% of college grads are unable to find work and 85% are moving back home after graduation. Who’s to blame these kids for their bad attitude, all they have known since they walked on campus in the fall of 2008 has been recession and doom and gloom. 

These young men appeared to be bright and capable, eager, and ready to be trained, and to in turn offer some value to a prospective employer. They were bright enough to know, in fact, what it often takes for a kid to get a break when starting the career journey. 

They spoke about their friend, also a recent grad, who just landed a position in New York CIty with a large and well respected consulting firm. Their comments about this third friend suggested that all three had similar attributes as to internships, GPA, major, leadership, etc.

The boys concluded that the differentiating variable was that the third boy had an uncle who worked at the consulting firm and got him an interview. They concluded this 20 minute chat about the next stage of their life with a reconciliatory “it all comes down to who you know.”

You're right. So get to know people!

After we landed and were waitng to depart the aircraft, I could not resist offering up some words of wisdom for the boys. I congratulated them on recognizing the importance of who you know. I told them that what you know and who knows you will all be very important factors throughout their long and, hopefully, successful careers.

I told them sending out resumes online to job postings was not a good use of their time. I also told them to not to rely on finding out about the perfect job through the career services department at their college. 

I told them that if they want to get to know people, they needed to make that their singular purposeWe talked out the networking capabilities of Facebook and LinkedIn, how to professionally engage, how to network, and, most importantly, how to get to know people.