The following post comes courtesy of Nick Farina, CEO of GiftedHire, the career platform that helps you find your calling. Use GiftedHire to showcase your achievements, explore career paths and connect with leading employers. Post originally featured on Medium.

A few minutes of extra work can separate you from other job applicants by a mile.

There is a disconnect between the way that most entry level candidates search for jobs, and the way that many of those roles actually get filled.

Yes, there are a few surefire ways to get hired these days. You’re a genius. Your mom is a big time CEO. You get lucky.

Do any of these sound like you? No, me neither. But there is one way that you can significantly increase your odds of finding a job: make a personal connection with decision makers.

If you’re starting to think about writing this off as too hard, then you’re on the right track — this is hard, but it’s not too hard. The reason it works is because many people simply don’t even try.

You don’t need to know anyone important to get started, and once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature. Plus, it can be downright thrilling to receive positive replies, while your friends are pulling their hair out with endless job applications.

And not only will mastering the art of making connections help you land you a job — it will form a foundation that can carry you for the rest of your career.

“Effective networking is a life skill and one you need to work on by proactively meeting people to gather information, find mentors, look for jobs and build your career,” counsels Pat Hedley, an executive with 30 years of experience at a major global private equity firm, and Founder of The Path Ahead.

So, how do you get started? Here are 5 quick-start tips on mastering the art of relationships when you don’t know anyone (yet). These can be applied both with people you know, such as a professor (warm), and people you haven’t spoken with before, such as the hiring manager of a role you’re applying for (cold).

  1. Start close to home. An easy way to get started is to write emails to people you already know: favorite professors, friends a year or two ahead of you that are doing what you’d like to be doing, or family. Here is an easy pattern to follow: quick introduction on who you are and what you’d like to do, reference to their specific background to show you did research, and a brief ask — for people you already know, this could be to pass your resume along to their friends or colleagues, and introduce you directly when appropriate. GiftedHire offers templates to make this easy.
  2. Remember that people want to hear from you. A common concern is that you’re bothering people, or interrupting their day. In fact, experienced people love hearing from younger people! First, they like to share knowledge and talk about their experiences. Second, they know your future is ahead of you — one day they may be calling you for help!
  3. Don’t just send a job application — send a note. Sending resumes to job boards is not an effective way to get hired. GiftedHire recently conducted a study that showed 75% of resumes can’t be read properly by the screening software that employer use. Even if your resume is scanned properly, it can be hard to stand out. Send a brief email to the hiring manager, or the CEO if it’s a smaller firm, introducing yourself and briefly stating why you want to work at the company and how you can add value.
  4. But where are the email addresses? When it comes to cold emails to someone you haven’t met, it can take a bit of work to track down their email. Again, remember this is work that your competitors probably aren’t doing, so it’s well worth the effort. The most obvious place to find the email of a hiring manager or CEO is on the company website, or on the job application itself. However, due to spam and privacy concerns, some companies don’t have emails handy. If that doesn’t work, try Google to see if their email is listed on any other sites by searching “name + contact (or) email” and looking for the address there. The next trick is to try and find any email at that company — not necessarily your target person, and then use that email pattern for the person you want to reach. For If none of these work, and you’re really determined, here’s a comprehensive list of tools used by sales professionals.
  5. Remember to say “please” and “thank you,” and follow-up on a schedule. If someone offers to speak with you, say thank you and keep them updated every 6 months about your career progress. I have helped hundreds of young job seekers, and it might surprise you how few bother to say thank you, or who follow up with updates. The ones that do really stand out, and I go above and beyond to help them.

Take YOUR few minutes & create your profile on GiftedHire today!