As an undergraduate student I was very involved in leadership opportunities on campus, I completed two internships my senior year, and I maintained a strong GPA for all four years of college. I thought I was doing all of the right things to find a job after graduation. I made regular career counseling appointments and had my résumé in tip-top shape. Despite all of this hard work, I didn’t find a job after graduation and ended up waitressing for a year before going to graduate school. Looking back now, I know what I did wrong. Despite the regular suggestions from my career counselor I hadn’t networked.
Networking was an overwhelming idea for me. I didn’t understand what it actually was or how I was supposed to do it. After over two years of working in career services, I have a much better understanding of how and why you should network. Networking works in two ways. The first is to provide you information about an individual’s career path, company, or industry and seek their professional advice to apply to your own career development. The second way networking works is by creating a well-placed “network” of connections within your chosen industry at the companies you would potentially like to work for in the future. By being strategic about who you reach out to and making connections early, when you actually begin to apply for jobs you will have an “in” at your top companies.
So how do you network? Attending Career Fairs, networking events, and CLAS Career Panels are great ways to network. However if you’re more of an introvert, or are just new to networking, informational interviewing is an easy way to expand your professional connections and learn about their companies, industries, graduate school, etc. Informational interviewing is when YOU interview the professional about their career path and seek their expert advice. You can find people to informational interview through your existing personal connections, through your extended professional network on LinkedIn, and by joining professional associations. For sample questions to ask see our informational interviewing handout. The most important question to ask at the end of any networking conversation is “do you have any suggestions of other people I should speak to [in this industry/company]?”
After conducting an informational interview (or meeting an employer at a career fair/ networking event) ALWAYS send a thank you note. Not only does this make a positive lasting impression, but it also opens lines of communication for you to follow up with additional questions.
While I may have struggled as an undergraduate finding a job after graduation I have since learned what was missing in my job search. By networking extensively in graduate school and learning what employers wanted in new hires, I was able to land my dream job as a Career Consultant at UConn three months before I graduated.