As a freshman, networking felt like such a daunting task. Who was I supposed to contact when I did not know what I wanted to major in, much less what I wanted to do after college? How was I supposed to get started with all of this “networking” business?
It was my first year at Drew. I had time to worry about all this later, right? Well, yes and no.
Something I didn’t realize at the time is that it is never too early to start networking. According to the director of Drew University’s Center for Internships and Professional Development Chris Carbone, “The best time to start is right now.”
He pointed out that, like I originally thought, students often believe that they should start networking when it is time to apply for a job or find an internship. They don’t really worry about it much until that point. However, Carbone said that networking is really about developing relationships — “conversation with a purpose,” as he put it — and it is best to start early.
As an introvert content with keeping to myself, Carbone’s words made networking seem much less intimidating to me because I could think of it more like normal conversation. Whether I am chatting with friends at lunch or listening to an alum talk about how they landed their current job, I am always genuinely curious about what they have to say and learn from their experiences.
Of course, networking as a freshman means that while students have more time to develop connections while at Drew, they might not know where to begin. After talking with Carbone, I feel it is important to begin talking to people who are doing work in fields that you find engaging.
“If you are looking to connect and if you’re looking to think about professional networking down in the future,” Carbone advised, “Really what you want to do is talk to people about what you find interesting, what you love to do, what really gets you up in the morning.”
I am currently in the nycTREC for Media and Communications, and all of the guest speakers who have come in to talk about their career paths have emphasized the importance of identifying what our passions are in order to discover careers which fit those interests and provide motivation to work.
Even for seniors who have limited time before graduation, the same strategy is applicable and useful. Seniors know what interests them since they have declared their majors and participated in extracurriculars on campus. The next step is reaching out to people in careers they might want to have based on their interests and finding out if they can picture themselves working in that field.
An article from the National Public Radio estimated 70 to 80% of jobs are not posted online, but are instead filled through connections. It also said that when a hiring manager has two equally qualified candidates, they are more likely to select the person a coworker recommends over someone who is just a name on a resume.
Yes, we are still busy college students. We have classes and our personal lives to wrestle with on top of trying to figure out what to do with our future. Although it is challenging to start networking as soon as possible and equally as hard to maintain those connections, it is necessary for long-term success.
This might feel discouraging for students who have not started building their network yet, but Drew presents us with an abundance of opportunities to do so.
In fact, on Oct. 28 from 7 to 10 p.m., the Center for Internships and Professional Development will be hosting “Mocktober,” a mock-interview/Halloween costume contest mash-up. Students will be able to come to The Pub in costume to network and practice their interview skills. A prize, provided by the Drew Organization of Gaming, will be awarded to the student with the best costume.
Of course, students should consider beginning their networking process even before this event. The sooner we all start making connections, the better chance we have of getting our ideal jobs in the future. The “Mocktober” event is an excellent jumping-off point for networking newbies in need of guidance.