Why NOW Is The Time To Network… Even If You Hate Networking

As things stand right now, the wonderful year of 2020 is going to feature one of the most difficult to break into job markets in modern history. That’s just a fact.

Unemployment across the United States has skyrocketed as businesses struggle to stay afloat by laying off thousands and freezing their hiring processes. So not only are there fewer jobs, but there is also more competition for vacant positions than usual.

Are you inspired yet?

“Yeah dude this rocks, I feel great, keep going, please.”

Don’t worry, we’re here to help.

The Average Joe will be scouring sites like Monster and Indeed, feverishly sending resumes to a wide range of companies, applying for positions ranging from CEO of Fortune 500 companies all the way to part-time dishwashing apprentice, and everything in between. Times are tough and I get the heightened pressure to shoot your shot, but is that really the most effective strategy?

Could be for some, but not for you. You have a distinct advantage.

As a student-athlete, you have a giant leg up on the rest of the potential workforce: people want to talk to you. You can leverage your experience as an elite athlete that people admire to make connections and build relationships with potential employers and advocates for your success.

While the Average Joe sends in dozens of resumes, you are going to be using tools like LinkedIn (or our NextPlay app at your school) to build your network instead. First, connect with people you know. Next, people you know indirectly or historically through athletics, school, your neighborhood, or any other potential tertiary link that will at least make you recognizable or memorable.

Reaching out to people outside your circle of close friends and university staff can seem intimidating, I get it. But according to Forbes, “your weak ties are actually a lot more likely to move the ball forward than close ones.”

The big takeaway here is that the true purpose of LinkedIn is NOT to find and submit a resume for your dream job. You can certainly try, but with over 600,000,000 active users and roughly 20,000 job postings, the success rate on blind applications is… you don’t want to know.

What LinkedIn CAN do (and do very well) is help you create a professional network in your potential industry, stay up to date with relevant news and trends by following influential accounts, and connect with alumni from your school who could advocate for you.

And for those of you who have no clue what you want to do, which is most of us, all of the above activities can be useful tools for exploration as well.

The even better news is, now is the perfect time to start networking.


“Ugh… Networking? Really? That word grosses me out. Do I really need to network?”

You and me both, buddy. But the answer is yes, especially since you, you know, want a job.

And hey, it’s not all bad! Most of what networking entails is just asking for advice, and more often than not, people are happy to help out an enthusiastic college student. This means you can learn more about a field that you know nothing about or gain insight into a position you are interested in, for free!

It’s also MUCH easier to get hired for a position you want if you have an advocate at the organization, helping you from the inside. I mean, there’s no way Aniken would have ever been allowed to train as a Jedi if Qui-Gon hadn’t stood up to Mace Windu, right?

Think about it- if you were the hiring manager for a position, and you were down to two identical candidates, would you take the one you know nothing about or the one who your teammate has vouched for ever since they played with each other in high school?

Don’t just take my word for it, look at the numbers. Referred candidates are 15x more likely to be hired than candidates who apply through an online job board, and 80% of recruiters say that referrals are the best way to find quality hires.


“Okay okay, I get it. I need to network. But things are crazy right now, will anyone even talk to me? Are there even any jobs? This seems like the wrong time to start…”

Wrong-o, my friend. Now is the PERFECT time to start.

Truth be told, it’s ALWAYS a good time to expand your network. Think about it; Netflix didn’t need to keep expanding its content library, but they did it anyway. They made a good thing even better, and now we have Love Is Blind. You never know when the next person you meet might be the Cameron to your Lauren.

In the current COVID-19 climate, networking is ESPECIALLY important though.

Individuals aren’t the only ones struggling right now. Businesses are also in dire need of help, and even if they aren’t able to hire right now, the relationships you establish will pay off when things eventually return to normal. You might even offer to do some free work to help keep them afloat, gaining some work experience that wouldn’t normally be available.

Sports are canceled for the foreseeable future, and while this is deeply depressing for all of us (yes, us too), it’s also a tremendous opportunity to polish your non-sport game.

Effective networking takes time, that’s the most annoying part about it! It’s like a job in itself when you’re doing it right. But seriously, what else have you got going on? Video games? Sudoku? Your fourth nap of the day?


“YOU’RE RIGHT! THE TIME IS NOW, HERE WE GO! Dear Elon Musk, I really admire your fire, I dig rockets, and also…” Wait, let’s do this right.

Let’s focus on LinkedIn’s networking power for now. Some great ways to familiarize yourself with this service and start making meaningful connections are…

Create or perfect your LinkedIn profile

We’ve spoken to our good friends at LinkedIn, and we know how their algorithm prioritizes profile views for recruiters. Add your school, major, and degree type. Include your athletic experience and any honors you have earned. Upload a professional-looking photo: you alone, shoulders up with a neutral background (And smile!). Upload your resume, add some skills, and get your teammates to endorse you. (Need more help? Email us at info@nextplay.me and we will give you a hand and walk through your profile with you).

Explore what’s out there

Search for jobs or industries you might find interesting. Look at groups for like-minded professionals. See who you might know or could reach out to at companies you like. Go ahead and connect with people you already know and strengthen your existing connections.

Connect with alumni

Look for former athletes at your school and figure out what they’re up to now. You might learn about jobs or industries you never even knew existed, and be able to reach out to these people for help. Just type your school name into the search bar and you can see where alumni from your school live and work before deciding who you might want to reach out to.

Getting started on a networking journey can be intimidating, but don’t worry! You’ve made it this far, and taking the time to present yourself professionally and ask for advice can go a long way towards eventually landing a great job!