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Networking as a College Student

March 31, 2017

Chances are through college and your personal life, you have met many influential people who can vouch for your character and credibility. There are multiple outlets which you can use to leverage your connections, we asked our hiring experts to elaborate on them.

Career Fairs

The advantage of attending a career fair is the opportunity to differentiate yourself from a sea of resumes. There’s a lot of content and debate available with helpful tips on how to make your resume stand out from the crowd, but at the end of the day, it’s just a piece of paper. At a career, you will get face to face interaction and the chance to not only show off your personality, but to be memorable.

Having a human conversation with an interviewer is the ultimate way to stand out in a sea of applicants. It gives you a shot at bringing a lot more weight to your value as a candidate. Here you have the ability to pick a potential interviewer’s brain and learn their expectations, likes and dislikes, and to make a lasting impression.

Your Personal Network

You may think you currently have a limited network, but right under your nose may be a key influencer. Lori, a hiring expert at Cigna, gives her perspective:

“Your network can consist of former teachers, counselors, employers, as well as family and friends. Don't forget to also count on any local groups or community organizations you may be a part of. If, after thinking through all of those people, you still feel like you don't have a big network, why not work on expanding it? You just need to get comfortable having conversations with people you might not know. That could mean online with people/groups on LinkedIn, at the store, library, or any other type of community or social event you might be attending. Once you get in a conversation with people, you can bring up the subject of careers and get to understand what people do, and who they may know. Networking is something you get a comfort level with over time and you will learn different things to do each time you are speaking with someone new.” 1

Tap into your extended network by taking advantage of the connections you already have. For example, a journalism professor would probably have a handful of contacts at local media companies. If you’re involved in any community sports leagues or volunteer groups, those organizers would be key people as well. As a bonus, these people know you on a personal level, and can speak on your work ethic and ambition.

Through all of the networking that happens via social media, LinkedIn is the best way to go about it professionally. LinkedIn can put you in touch with people in the industry you are pursuing, recruiters and hiring managers, and put you in touch with referral sources who can help promote your work to potential employers. Dan, a hiring expert at Mutual of Omaha, shares his insight:

“With so much going on social media, many tend to forget about LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great tool and asset to have for one’s professional growth and networking. At times it is not all about what you know, but who you know and that is when professional networking/ a LinkedIn profile comes in handy. First off, one needs to create a captivating bio with a professional photo. Next, research and search through out LinkedIn for any professional groups to join, or better yet create your own group. Before you do either, think about who you’re trying to attract. Then make your connections, be strategic in your connections and do not send the standard LinkedIn message. Try to make it a more personalized message. Finally, stay in touch with your connections and become a connector for others.” 2

In this day in age, everything is very digitally driven. Connecting with others on LinkedIn through groups that focus on the industry you aspire to become a part of is a great way to connect with new professionals. As Dan says, it really can be less about what you know, and more about who you know. LinkedIn is a powerful tool that can allow you to make strategic relationships with professionals in your desired industry that could potentially recommend you to their employers.

Networking is all about using your contacts to meet and create a lasting impression upon professionals who could benefit you. Being a college student doesn’t mean that you haven’t made valuable professional connections. Dive into your personal network and talk to your professors, friends, and local community members about your professional goals. Odds are, they’ll be willing to help you grow.

 

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