Whether or not you’ve accessed career services through the UConn Center for Career Development (although I hope you have!), chances are you’re heard these buzz words being used by your classmates, parents, professors, or coworkers. As a student, you’ve probably internalized the message that these three concepts are important to your career development. What you may not have learned is what these concepts mean in a career context and how to go about them.
The Webster definition for networking is: “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.” The key component of this definition is that there is more to networking than requesting a job, or asking for a favor. Networking involves developing a mutually beneficial professional relationship. Therefore as you are starting to build your network it’s important to consider what you bring to a professional relationship: what are your skills? What knowledge do you possess? Who’s already in your network? Recognizing that you bring something to the metaphorical networking table is key towards building an ongoing relationship.
Professional development is one way for you to expand and enhance the skills that you bring to a professional environment. One of the most common types of professional development is attending conferences. At a conference you will be able to learn specific skill sets, expand your knowledge base, and have access to both new and seasoned professionals in your field. While you’re still in school is a great time to get involved with professional organizations and attend conferences because they often have discounted or free student rates. Building your professional network while you’re still at UConn allows you to make genuine connections. Instead of approaching someone directly for a job (not advised), you can reach out and ask to learn more about this person’s career and seek their advice. They will be happy to provide you this resource that they can actually give, their knowledge, and in general most professionals (especially UConn Alumni, go huskies!) will enjoy playing their part in mentoring an up and coming young professional.
Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to build your connections while you’re still in school! To learn more about the conference experience, read this post by my colleague Paul Gagnon, about his recent experience attending the Eastern Association of Colleges and Employers Conference last month.
- Meet with a career consultant to come up with your own professional development plan
- Join professional organizations: Check out your major’s What Can I do With My Major page or industries of interest on Vault to find organizations that appeal to you
- Attend conferences and conduct informational interviews
- Always follow up by sending thank you’s and continuing the relationship with regular updates