What Does Networking Mean, Anyway?
In honor of our annual speed networking event, Rita Soultanian, Assistant Director of Career Counseling, answers some common about networking and offers advice about building a network of your own.
What exactly does “networking” mean?
Networking means building and cultivating relationships. Often, it’s easy to forget that it’s about adding value to a relationship that counts, whether it be asking a question and receiving advice, or giving information that could be useful to the other party. You, like many students, may feel you don’t have much to contribute,a especially in the budding stages of a professional relationship, but it’s important to remember that down the line, you’re likely to be able to offer reciprocity as you advance in your own career.
How can college students begin networking, and how can they find professionals to connect with in their chosen fields?
There are a number of ways college students can begin to network with professionals. First, it’s important to tap into your own network via family and close friends. Networking begins from your inner circle, with those whom you already know and trust, then you can expand by asking those already in your network (even mom & dad) if they can refer you.
Another great resource for networking is the Alumni Relations Office at your college or university. They work with affinity groups of alumni who are often looking for opportunities for networking of which you can a part. These include alumni who may be affiliated with various clubs or organizations on campus, including cultural clubs, and also groups with a specific industry focus. You may also reach out to make an appointment at your Career Center where counselors may be able to connect you to alumni who work in a career path of interest to you. There are likely events on campus offered through these two offices as well, which give you the opportunity to network with alumni in a controlled environment such as a networking mixer or a professional etiquette dinner. Attending talks or speaking events scheduled on campus is another great way to meet professionals.
Once you’ve exhausted your own personal network you can begin to build a profile on LinkedIn and reach out to professionals though this valuable online tool.
What are some tips for building a LinkedIn account that draws attention from potential employers?
Make sure you have a compelling headline! Student at Such and Such University is the most basic way to do this, but it would be more compelling to include your professional aspirations, or something that points to your existing experience and persona. You may try “Marketing Intern at X Company” or “Phi Beta Lambda Chapter President” or “Communications Major at X University.” This gives connections a more specific reference to what you’re about and puts your objective as a job seeker out there right away.
What are some ways that new graduates can make sure they’re coming across as young professionals rather than students?
Taking on experiences like internships, volunteerism and other job opportunities will set you apart and project a professional image. Academics and on-campus involvement are very important, but hands-on experience is critical in the career discernment process.
In addition, it’s been said your online presence is a resume in and of itself. If you Google yourself, what would you find? Ideally, your LinkedIn account will appear at the top of your search results so that your professional presence is the first thing people will see. Also ensure there isn’t anything on any social media sites that would compromise your professional image. Re-record your voicemail to sound professional and make sure you have a professional email address.
How should students pursue a potential networking connection? What things should they avoid doing?
Informational Interviewing is an excellent way to reach out to professionals. This is the process of interviewing a professional of interest about his or her career path, job function, or advice about the industry over coffee or another casual setting. It’s a stress-free way of connecting with someone to genuinely learn and get advice from someone who has more experience.
Do not ask for a job in an informational interviewing encounter – this removes the “pressure-free” caviat from the interaction and may be off-putting. Instead, focus on building a valuable rapport and let your new connection volunteer any leads as they see fit.
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