An article by contributor Dixie Somers.
As graduation approaches, college students have a lot to do. You must prepare for finals, complete major projects like your undergraduate thesis and get ready to move on to the next phase of your life. Searching for your first job is a top priority. The reality is that many other people will be applying for each job that you are interested in. Building a network of professional contacts before you graduate will put you in a good position to land one of those jobs. With a good network in place, you may get hired even before you graduate.
Preparing to Network
Take advantage of your school’s office of career and job search services. You can get tips on networking and notifications of upcoming job fairs. You can also get help connecting with your alumni association, preparing your resume, and even arrange training and practice interviews. Start networking early. The beginning of your senior year or even the year before is not too soon.
Use Your Existing Network
You may not realize this, but you already have an existing network of contacts. It consists of family friends, relatives and your parents. In addition, faculty and college staff members who have worked with you are resources. All of these people know others in industries you are interested in, even if they don’t work in those fields. They can also advise you based on their knowledge of your skills, strengths and personality.
Becoming an intern is more than a way to gain valuable real world experience. Internships are first class networking opportunities. The professionals you work with can recommend you to others in the industry who might hire you. Many employers hire entry-level people from the ranks of their interns. This gives you an edge in the highly competitive job market.
Attend Relevant Events
Attend job fairs as often as possible. Don’t count on getting hired on the spot. This happens, but not often. Job fairs are an ideal place to make initial contacts and take the first steps that can lead to an interview. In addition, they are an opportunity to practice interacting with hiring professionals. Industry and academic conferences are another event type you should exploit. You can make contacts with experienced professionals who can help you negotiate their employer’s hiring process.
The alumni of colleges, such as California College San Diego, are an invaluable networking resource. Many of them got jobs with the help of previous alumni. It’s just good karma to do the same for students now seeking their first jobs. Start with your college alumni association. They expect students to tap into the resources they have available. Attend social events that admit students. Bear in mind that any alumni association is a large pool of potential contacts. The first people you talk to can and will refer you to colleague who may have employment opportunities.
LinkedIn is your best social media resource for online networking because it is designed for exactly this purpose. You can post your important information, qualifications and interests. LinkedIn has recently added student-centered features to help young people network effectively. There is also a private message system that you can use to reach out to professionals in the occupations and industries that you are interested in.
If you’ve never networked before, don’t worry. One of the advantages of starting before you graduate is that most professionals understand that you are going through a learning process and will be supportive. Consider volunteer work if you started networking late. There are volunteer organizations with links to virtually every industry. A volunteer assignment will allow you to make valuable contacts, and volunteer work can provide real world experience that will strengthen your resume.
Dixie Somers is a freelance writer and blogger for business, home, and family niches. Dixie lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and is the proud mother of three beautiful girls and wife to a wonderful husband. You can follower her on Twitter @DixieSomers.