Network on Campus
Peter Vogt MC Career Coach
There’s no better job search or career exploration strategy than networking. But many college students think of networking as attending schmaltzy get-togethers dressed in uncomfortable clothes, giving out business cards with the left hand and shaking hands with the right, and all the while trying to act interested and interesting.
However, networking doesn’t have to turn your stomach. In fact, as a college student, you have a home field advantage of sorts, because you’re on a college campus, where you’re surrounded by easily accessible networking venues. Check out some of the possibilities.
Most campuses sponsor student organizations of all kinds, including groups affiliated with state and/or national professional associations. For example, the Public Relations Student Society of America, the college affiliate of the Public Relations Society of America, has chapters at more than 250 colleges and universities across the US. Similarly, the Society for Human Resource Management has student chapters at more than 400 schools.
Many of these groups hold monthly or quarterly events on campus, featuring working professionals who talk to students about industry career options and trends. Attend one of these events, or better yet, help organize one. You’ll be in direct contact with people who can point you toward job or internship possibilities, career options or both.
Your professors’ lives extend outside academia. Their career-related pursuits and professional connections could be in business, the nonprofit sector or government agencies. Your business administration professor, for instance, might be the founder of a local company or on the board of a nonprofit agency that intrigues you.
Remember too that professors in a particular academic department know which employers tend to hire that department’s graduates. More than likely, these professors also keep in touch with alums who are now thriving in the world of work. So a 15-minute chat with one of your instructors could be more fruitful than you think.
Student Services Professionals
Your school employs dozens of student services professionals who work directly with students, such as:* Residence life professionals, who run the campus residence halls. * Campus activities professionals, who set up educational and recreational events for you and your fellow students. * Counseling and health services professionals, who take care of your mental and physical health needs.
Add to the mix the career services professionals at your school’s career center, who interact not only with students but also employers.
All of these professionals ultimately work for you, since their salaries are largely funded by your tuition and fee dollars. Much more importantly, they enjoy helping college students. Let them help you.
Your fellow students know people who matter, and people who matter know your fellow students. In fact, many employers who hire college students for internships and jobs recruit by talking to students they’ve already brought on board.
“Once we find a great student worker, we always turn to them first to see if they have any friends they can recommend,” says Terese Corey Blanck, director of student services for Student Experience, a suburban St. Paul company that places college students into internships.
Sure, your roommate can be annoying sometimes. But he, like many other people on campus, might be the key networking contact you’ve been looking for.
“The point is that everyone has contacts,” says Jerry Houser, director of the Career Development Center at California Institute of Technology (Caltech). “They just need you to ask the right questions, and they can often come up with lots of names.”