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Note to College Freshman: Start Networking Now!

April 17, 2009 By: Category: Alumni advice

Creating Career Pathways

As you start college, your career may seem a lifetime away. You very well may pack a lifetime of experiences into these next few years, but your time in college will pass quickly and soon you’ll find yourself seeking your first “real” job. Depending on the steps you’ve taken to prepare for your job search, you may have quick success or experience unemployment for longer than you planned. That’s why it is never too early to start creating pathways to your career. Getting an education is one important step to finding the employment you desire, but networking is the best way to invite opportunities after graduation.

Freshman Year: How to Start Networking

As a freshman you may be uncertain about your career plans, perhaps you haven’t declared your major yet. Networking can help you explore career options. Visit the college career center, have discussions with students in your classes, and research and discuss careers online. Organizations, clubs, social events, and volunteering in areas that interest you may serve to deepen your desire to work in a particular field. Keep building your network by creating close connections to those with a similar direction. Even though you’ve just started college, you should also put together your resume. Update it as you join organizations, take on summer jobs, volunteer, or receive academic awards.

Sophomore Year: Developing Your Networks

In your sophomore year you should develop the relationships you began with professors and students when you were a freshman. Take time to talk to professors about your career intentions and seek out their advice for course decisions. The better you get to know your professors, the more interest they will take in helping you start your career. Some may have contacts within the industry you plan to work. At the very least, these relationships should provide you with references and letters of recommendation when you are actively seeking employment. Remember, following up with people after events, discussions, and meetings, is the key to networking. Thank a professor by e-mail for his or her time. Express how much you enjoyed taking part in a volunteering event. You’ll leave positive and memorable impressions if you follow up with contacts expressing gratitude and optimism. Start this habit now and use it throughout your career and personal relationships. One simple thank you can works wonders!

Junior Year: Getting Closer to Your Career

In your junior year you should begin taking steps to converse with employers in your chosen field. Stay abreast of trends and innovations by reading industry publications. Research what employers are looking for when they hire people for the job you desire. Continue networking with professors and department heads in your major and students in your field. Don’t hesitate to invite professors or professional contacts to industry-related events you attend or are involved with. Make your networking a two-way street and show how the relationship also benefits them. This year strive to make sure your summer job as closely related to your career choice as possible.

Senior Year: Job Search Focus

In your final year your focus should be on your job search and career. Relate major paper and project topics to your future career whenever possible. Doing so will provide you more in-depth knowledge and may help when you meet employers. It’s also time to work on your cover letter and fine-tune the resume you’ve been developing. Work on interviewing skills by meeting with recruiters who visit the college. Continue networking with professors and students, but branch out and let everyone know how you intend to use your college diploma. Job opportunities can come from unlikely sources. Attend job fairs, workshops, and career programs on campus. Use non-traditional methods such as asking employers for meetings so you can learn more about the field. Shadow someone who has a job in your intended field to gain experience and expand your network at the same time. If you haven’t already done so, join a professional organization related to your field. Sign up with an online job search network that gives you resume posting access, job alerts, and career advice. Interning, temporary work, and volunteering can help you make contacts or lead to jobs directly.

Networking Forever and Always!

Once you begin your first job out of college, keep networking! You never know when you may need or want to utilize a contact for employment. Not only that, but networking is the best way to have opportunities find you.