Start Making Connections While in College
College students often wait until their senior year of college to start thinking about their career. There are some students who even wait until after graduation to ask the question, “now what?” The time to start thinking about your job search is not towards the end of your college experience, but at the beginning.
Registration should not be a chore. I myself am guilty of going through the motions when I selected courses during the early stages of my undergrad experience. I’d look through the available classes and compare it to what was required of me to reach my goal. Selecting classes is a process that should not be taken lightly. Students should benefit from college not only academically, but professionally as well.
The training ground for networking begins at the college level. One of the first things job seekers are told when looking for a job is to research the company in which you’re seeking employment. Job seekers not only want to research the company, but know the professional background of the executives, community involvement, etc. I suggest that students apply this same method of intrigue when applying for college. However, don’t stop there – once you’ve chosen and been accepted into the college of your choice, do some research about the academic department where you will spend the next four years studying. You will be trained and taught by an elite group of men and women that will impact your learning, so why not study them. Chances are high that many of the professors and even the department chair have done some level of research on you – your grades, academic achievements, community service and more. Students should in turn, learn about their future professors and mentors.
What to Do? Go to the school website, check out the professors in your area of study and read their bios. When the school releases the names of the professors who will be teaching your respective courses, send them an email to introduce yourself, connect with them on social networks or schedule an informational meeting. In other words, perfect your “elevator pitch.” In the same way job seekers do their best to articulate their strengths to employers; students should take this same approach with their professors. If you’re a journalism major, offer to write for the school newspaper, meet with the Department Chair to ask if you can start a blog for the department. If a blog already exists, then ask if you can incorporate a video blog. Check out what is being offered to students and alumni – if you have an idea or know of a way to add value to the school, bring it to the attention of the right person and offer to do it. Taking on this initiative can possibly turn into a job offer after graduation. If not, you can at least add the experience to your resume.
Why Is It Important to Connect with Professors? It is these same professors that have “industry” connections and will write your recommendation letters. They know about internships and they serve as great mentors. One thing to keep in mind – relationship building is everything. YOU are your brand and you want to do your best to brand yourself and bring awareness to your strengths and ability to network. Do your best to become more than just a name on the roster. Be personable, polite and your ability to make friends with others. It is vital to show your strengths and your passion for academics.
How to Connect * Connect with Professors and Department Chairs on Social Networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. * Start a discussion * Ask questions about their field of expertise. * Blog about your experience (hopefully a positive one) in a specific class and link it from your social network. Copy the professor * Take advantage of the office hours provided by the professor. Schedule a meeting to discuss your academic and professional goals.
Remember, college isn’t just about academics; it’s a time for personal and professional development. When on an interview, it is the interviewees’ responsibility to convince the employer why they’re a good fit for the company. We have to let them see the benefit of having us on their team. This same concept applies in a college environment. Get yourself noticed by those who can positively impact your future.