The main benefits of making personal connections can be summed up in three parts: everyone knows something you don’t know, everyone knows someone you don’t know and it’s who you know [before] what you know, Matt Paulaitis, senior in marketing and finance, said.
Although the new semester just started, it is never too early think about future jobs or internships.
Networking is a professional necessity because those resources lead to internships and jobs, Taren Crow, director of career services for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said.
“Networking doesn’t have to be a scary thing,” Crow said. “It’s just being professional, making friends and staying connected.”
Students who are nervous or think they are too shy should know that they are not alone, said Crow and Meredith Williams, career coordinator and recruiting coordinator in the College of Business.
Some basic skills students should master to network successfully are the handshake, making small talk, asking questions and closing the conversation.
Williams said networking should be a conversation that is mutually beneficial to you and the person you are talking to. Once the conversation is over, ask for contact information and make sure to follow up.
Crow advises students to reach out to that new contact at least three times a year so they don’t start from square one when they meet again.
“If you meet someone at a career fair your freshman year and only contact them again your senior year, chances are they either moved on from their position or don’t remember you,” she said. “If you reach out three times a year and say hello, check in to see how things are going or share an interesting article, that person will be much more valuable.”
Another great way to break the ice is to volunteer at events.
“When students have a duty or task, they can feel more confident and can go back to the event as an attendant and have a little more knowledge about it,” Williams said.
If talking to professionals is too intimidating, talk to your peers, Crow said. Expanding your circle is key especially if you can ask your connections if they have any connections that would be beneficial to you.
“When I walk out of the office, I may see five students sitting next to each other on their phones instead of talking to each other,” she said. “Sometimes if you just talk to the people around you, you can learn more than you could through social media.”
When it comes to social media, LinkedIn is the popular choice to connect with professionals in your field.
“LinkedIn gives a really great opportunity to do research on people and figure out who [else] might be a connection,” Crow said.
She also said that if students don’t know much about LinkedIn, the career services staff are very knowledgeable and can help students set up their accounts, make them look professional and help them connect with other alumni.
The best way to network is to put yourself out there, whether it's attending career fairs, connecting with someone on LinkedIn or talking to your classmates. Networking isn’t just between a student and a recruiter.
Paulaitis said making connections helps you relate with people better and get even more of a foot in the door, as experience with new people snowballs into a plethora of new opportunities.