As a college student, you’re top priorities are probably studying and socializing. Although you’ve heard plenty about the state of the economy today, you may not have given it much thought. Many students are, however, taking steps now to improve their chances of obtaining employment upon graduation. There are things you can do to cast a wider net and to make connections that will help in your future job search.
It’s Called Networking
You’re probably already doing things to build your network. You’re meeting new people and joining groups. That’s a terrific start, but don’t underestimate the future importance of these friendships and connections. Also, don’t limit your networking to the small circle of people you naturally encounter. You’ll need to look for opportunities to increase your reach and make connections that are meaningful.
You can begin networking as early as freshman year. There are things you can do throughout your college career to cement your eventual ideal job. Take the time to learn about your peers and professors. Find out about their interests and their lives outside of school. This will allow you to be aware of commonalities and to build paths to future interests. I’m not saying to use your friends or instructors for who they know or what they can do for you. Take a sincere interest in what they have to offer and be sure to share with them the unique skills and attributes that you can provide to them as well.
Get Career Experience Early
By sophomore year, you may be starting to get into your major coursework and formulating ideas about the career you hope to puruse. This is the time to start making inroads towards that career by going on informational interviews or lining up internships.
An informational interview is when you ask questions of someone who’s already doing the job you’re interested in. You may even want to job shadow someone in your field of inerest by following them through a nromal day on the job. Your career services center can help you to set this up. A career counselor can also help you to learn about internship opportunities. Once you set up these kinds of experiences, don’t forget to add the people you meet there to your contact list.
You’re probably already using networking tools like Facebook and MySpace. These are great ways to stay connected with family and friends, but they’re also good for connecting with others of similar interest. Check out different groups on these sites in order to connect with folks you can learn from. You may also want to check out BanyanLink, a relatively new social networking site that allows students to connect with employers and career centers. Take advantage of these kinds of tools that weren’t available to college students in the past. Remember to keep your online profile professional. Not only your best buddies will see what you do online; future employers also have access to this information.
Another great source of information on networking is the book, The 29% Solution: 52 Weekly Networking Success Strategies. The authors of this book maintain that only 29% of the population fall into the category of the six degrees of separation we’ve all heard about and provide ways to put yourself in that 29%. Guess how I found out about this book, by the way. The co-author is a graduate of my university, and I read about it in my alumni newsletter! The book has taught me a great deal about networking, and I even had a chance to talk to the author. This is a prime example of looking for connections in unlikely places. Your college alumni office is another great place to find people to add to your network.