Crunch Time: Building Your Professional Network

by
Assistant Editor, Wintergreen Orchard House

May   2012

Tue

01

It’s officially May and what does that mean for graduating college seniors? It’s job search time. The statistics might be discouraging regarding the number of college graduates who are employed in their chosen field after graduation, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. Economic turmoil or not, there is one tried and true method to jumpstarting your job search: networking.

Making connections with people face-to-face is a powerful tool and a welcomed change from our technology-filled lives. People tend to remember your face, a conversation, or your attitude toward a particular topic when you have a physical conversation with them. These same reactions cannot be acquired through a phone call or e-mail conversation, so it’s important at first to make your presence known in-person and then keep in touch via e-mail or other online networking tools.

One way to facilitate these connections is by going to networking nights hosted by your school. These events allow students to talk to people in a variety of professional fields to gather information and insight on potential job openings. Before attending, do your research by looking into the people who will be there and the companies they represent. You don’t need to know their annual revenue to the penny, but having general knowledge about what they do, their major competitors, their recent developments, etc., will make you stand out when talking to a company representative. Check out this USA Today article on how to use your school’s alumni network to find a job for advice on attending such events.

A perk of attending a large university is the immense amount of alumni. If you’re attending a large public university, it’s common for people in the surrounding states—or even people across the country—to have heard of your school. That’s good news for you because there’s a better chance that someone you come across in your professional path either attended themselves or knows someone who went there. It’s not only a great conversation starter, but it also shows you have something in common with them, which people tend to remember.

Networking does not just apply to graduating seniors. If you have an idea of what you want to do after college, it’s not a bad idea to start networking your sophomore or junior year, learn about internship opportunities, and attend career fairs. Networking opportunities at a large college or university can be extensive if you tap into the right resources. Many universities have an alumni network that connects students with alumni in various fields and areas of the country. Most alumni involved in these organizations will be more than happy to help you make connections with people or companies that they have in their professional circles, for they have been in your same shoes however many years prior.

If you haven’t already signed up for a LinkedIn account, do so before you leave school. You might be able to make connections with your professors or other college staff members who may help you find a job in the future. Your soon-to-be alma mater may also have a virtual alumni group that you can join where members can post job openings, job search advice, and links to helpful articles.

Whether you’re excited to leave the books behind and put your education into practice, or you’re terrified at the thought of leaving the place you’ve called home for the past four years, graduation day will inevitably come. It’s better to be thoroughly prepared so that your transition into post-college life is as smooth as possible, and networking is a great way to start.

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About Kristen Healy

Kristen Healy

Kristen is an Assistant Editor at Wintergreen Orchard House, a sub-division of Carnegie Communications, where she manages data for Midwestern colleges and universities. She graduated in 2010 from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a double major in Journalism and Communication and a minor in Political Science. She is psyched about blogging about Public Colleges and Universities seeing as she is a proud product of one. She hopes that her four years at the Massachusetts state flagship campus will help her to bring new light to a broad range of topics that can relate to attending a public college or university. Her college career was spent writing for the news section of UMass’s Daily Collegian, volunteering at the university television studio, and enjoying the sites and activities of downtown Amherst. Kristen loves to travel and spent part of her junior year studying abroad in Galway, Ireland, where she gained perspective of what it is like to attend a large university in another country. She hopes her experiences in public higher education will help guide readers through their own college journeys!

You can circle Kristen on Google+, follow her on Twitter, or subscribe to her CollegeXpress blog.

 
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