Gen Z grad landed LinkedIn job by applying to waitress at conferences, then handed out her résumé during breaks

Gone are the days when hiring managers are impressed by cold messages on LinkedIn. With more than a billion users on the platform, it’s perhaps no surprise that overloaded recruiters are increasingly ignoring messages from strangers.

This is why recent grad Basant Shenouda went back to basics, combining the insight offered by social media platforms with good, old-fashioned hand-shaking.

After graduating in 2019 from the University of Bonn—one of Germany’s top universities—she spent six months sliding into recruiters’ DMs and applying for jobs online, before realizing she needed to do something drastic to cut through the noise.

“It is becoming harder and harder to reach the hiring manager, even virtually—which used to be a more non-traditional method,” the Egyptian-born Gen Zer tells Fortune. “It’s incredibly hard to spotlight yourself.”

After attempting to virtually connect with recruiters on LinkedIn for six months, she switched up her strategy and used the platform to see which conferences they were posting about to take her networking efforts directly to them. 

One event in particular stood out: Online Marketing Rockstars in Hamburg. “It’s a really well-known marketing and sales conference in Germany,” Shenouda recalls. 

“I graduated in marketing and was looking to get into sales, so it was just the perfect place where the decision-makers I was looking to target were going to be,” she explains. “People were even flying in from the U.S. so it was a good networking opportunity.”

With that in mind, Shenouda volunteered to clean up glasses at the conference to gain free entry, and traveled over six hours from Cologne to Hamburg by train with a stack of résumés in hand.

During her breaks at the conference, Shenouda put her CV in front of 30 to 40 faces, with the premise that she was looking for feedback on it—while secretly hoping her bold approach would impress just one recruitment manager. And after a six-month hiring process, it paid off.

“I was one of the only graduates at the conference and so it was full of opportunities for me,” the 27-year-old adds. “I got insight into my resume, developed a lot of relationships face-to-face (and that was far more effective than networking online) and got my application kickstarted for a couple of positions.”

One of those positions was in the sales graduate scheme at LinkedIn, where Shenouda still works today, three years later, as an implementation consultant in Dublin, Ireland.

“When you’re a graduate you think everyone’s going to say ‘yes’ to you and things are going work out. But it’s a matter of building up resilience,” she advises unemployed grads.

“You need to keep reassessing your process so that every no gets you closer to that next ‘yes’.”

Target the employers that rejected you

There’s a lot to be said for being in the right place at the right time, but Shenouda took a more targeted approach than just hoping to bump into her future employer. 

Not only did she draw up a hit list of conferences that hiring managers at her dream employers were going to be at, but she also went face-to-face with those who had rejected her advances online—LinkedIn’s recruiter being one of those.

“I gained feedback from all the companies that rejected, which allowed me to reapply and get job offers,” Shenouda says.

“It really brought me a lot of insight into how I can better distinguish my applications and what gaps I needed to fill to ensure that I made it past the final interview rounds.

“Traditionally people don’t reapply, people don’t keep trying and keep reaching out to people and keep maintaining a relationship.

“They [the recruiter] thought those were really good transferrable skills for sales and that’s what I ended up doing.”

How to convert networking into a job offer

Even if you’ve made every effort to ensure that you’re showing up at all the places hiring managers are, it doesn’t guarantee you’ll actually get any leads.

Shenouda says she showed her CV to around 200 recruiters across a handful of conferences before striking any luck.

Here are some tips she learned along the way to convert networking from just chitchat into something more tangible, like a job interview or offer:

1. Talk impact

Don’t worry if bigging yourself up to strangers doesn’t come naturally. “I was really bad at networking before,” Shenouda recalls. Her biggest tip? Talk metrics.

“Now, I know how to get someone’s attention,” she says, adding that that looks like “talking about impact instead of just saying, ‘I want a job’.” 

Looking back at the elevator pitch that landed her her current role, the Gen Zer says she talked about her wins during a previous internship at Intel. 

Likewise, don’t be afraid to outline what you want following a conversation with a recruiter.

“I’d always ask the specific question: if they can refer me (for a job), or if they have feedback based on my resume, or my past interview experience with the company,” Shenouda adds.

2. Listen 

Want to know what metrics will stand out to the hiring manager at your dream job? Ask them.

“Always focusing your elevator pitch on the other person,” Shenouda says.

It may sound counterintuitive to use the few minutes you have to pitch yourself to turn the attention on the recruiter’s needs—but it’s a surefire way to closely align your message with what they’re looking for.

“If they say they’re looking for people who can achieve something like a particular project, make sure you’re speaking that language,” Shenouda advises.

3. Foster friendships

Even those with hiring powers are people at the end of the day, with lives outside of work.

While getting straight down to business may be beneficial in the short term, for long-term alliances, it’s better to forge meaningful connections. 

“It’s not just about networking,” Shenouda notes. “It’s about making friends because that’s how you get people to support you.”

It’s why she recommends connecting with the people you’ve met on social media, while your face and name are still fresh in their minds—but don’t be a stranger.

Shenouda is still in touch with a Facebook recruiter that she met at a careers event seven years ago and bonded with over their mutual affinity for weightlifting. 

“The key to any career success is always the relationships you have—that is why I have always prioritized networking outside of the traditional job hunting method.”

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