By: Christine Andrelczyk, NLU Career Services Advisor
College is a busy time. Between classes, homework, and exams, it can be easy to lose sight of the ultimate reason for attending college in the first place: your career. With summer break on the horizon, you can take a step back from the hustle and bustle of the academic year and use your downtime to meet new people and build up your professional network. Nowadays, 70% of jobs are attained through networking, so be sure to take some time out of your busy schedule to start making valuable professional connections. Below are a few strategies you can use to build up your network while you’re still in school.
Start right away. A common misconception is that you only need to network when you’re actively job hunting. This is a myth! Just like any other investment, your network needs time to grow before you can begin reaping the benefits. Don’t wait until graduation to make your first connection. Start now by joining clubs or professional organizations and attending networking events on campus.
Put down the phone. Social media platforms like LinkedIn make networking quicker and easier than ever before, but that doesn’t mean all of you contacts should be digital. Instead, use social media as a jumping off point. Facebook and Twitter can be great places to find out about networking events in your city or area. Use LinkedIn to join professional groups that host regular, in-person meetings in your community. For example, popular events during summer could be picnics or golf outings. Social media can also help you spark a conversation with recruiters, alumni, and other professionals in your field.
It’s okay to feel awkward, but don’t shy away from networking because the idea of meeting new people sounds intimidating. Adopt a host mentality to boost your confidence in social situations. Career Advisor Paula Rucci Voigt explains, “Hosts go out of their way to introduce others and make them aware of what they might have in common. Their goal is to help create connections between their guests in an effort to make them more comfortable.” By thinking of yourself as a host rather than a guest, you’re empowering yourself to take control of the situation and make sure everyone walks away satisfied.
Talk to your professors. You may be used to seeing your professors in the classroom, but they’re also experts in their given field or industry. Your professors can offer a wealth of knowledge about what it’s like to work in your field and different career options for your major. They may also have insight on what experiences you should gain during college to best transition into your future career.
Connect with professionals. The best way to learn about a particular job is to talk to someone who’s currently working in that position. Don’t hesitate to reach out to professionals in your field to schedule an informational interview. This is a brief, structured conversation where you can ask day-in-the-life questions about a particular job or company, or find out how to break into the field. If you’re not sure what job or field you’re interested in, don’t worry: These conversations can help you decide. Summer is the perfect time to invite someone out for a nice conversation over iced coffee!