The Importance of Establishing Connections in College

Image courtesy of GiantIVY

Image courtesy of GiantIVY

By: Reid DiRenzo ’15 (CLAS)
Networking can be a scary concept for college students who are transforming into working adults. It can appear as a procedural way of interacting with strangers to expand one’s circle of contacts. But surprisingly, any social activity can be used to network, from attending college to going to the gym or running into a family friend.

Heather Fyfe ’16 (CLAS), a rising senior who is majoring in communication and is also a Division I varsity softball player said, “Basically all the positions I have held have involved networking in some way, even if the common connection simply acted as a talking point. I have also played on different teams and have held some awesome experiences outside of work because of networking. When you take time to develop a solid network, it can help a lot in pretty much all of the aspects of your life.”

Creating these positive personal and professional connections can benefit any young professional looking for a job. According to the NPR report, “A Successful Job Search: It’s All About Networking,” the president of Career Horizons, Matt Youngquist, said that 70 to 80 percent of jobs are not advertised publicly. Meaning students will often have to go out of their way to initiate conversations with prospective employers and uncover job opportunities.

Fyfe took part in the CLAS Career Advisor Program and ended up getting matched with Vice President of Communications at ESPN and communication sciences major Mike Soltys ’81 (CLAS), which Fyfe said was a “dream come true.”

Soltys ultimately helped her land a job as an intern for ESPN as a utility and has answered all of her “silly” questions about the communications world.

“He [Soltys] has taught me a lot about the industry and always provides an insider look at ESPN…I am really, really lucky that I was connected with Mr. Soltys. He has gone out of his way to help me and connect me with others within ESPN and is just an overall nice guy,” Fyfe said.

How can networking benefit you?

If more professionals in your industry know of your name it will give you an “edge” over other applicants, which is especially useful after graduation when there is an influx of new applicants entering the workforce, said Fyfe.

Universities and colleges typically offer training courses for students on what to wear to a formal networking event, what to bring and what to say. Basically all it takes to succeed at a networking event is appropriate business attire, business cards, a positive attitude and some talking points.

Students who are serious about their careers should utilize these resources, usually through a university’s career center, like UConn’s Center for Career Development. Most students who attend career events, and personally hand their resume or business card to a recruiter or someone who will directly deliver their information to a HR personnel, are guaranteed that their application will at least be viewed.

“At a UConn networking event I was able to meet with a man that worked for Travelers, but had a connection with someone who worked in marketing at The Hanover. He was able to put us in touch with one another and he has been a great contact since I’ve started my internship,” said rising senior at UConn Ashley Maher ’16 (CLAS), who is majoring in English and history. Maher is currently interning at The Hanover’s Corporate Marketing Department.

But what if I am too scared to network?

Well, you have probably already started networking if you are taking courses at school and participating in on-campus clubs/organizations. Try reaching out to your peers by simply connecting on social media or sparking a conversation with your professor during his/her office hours.

For those students who are too afraid to start, Maher offers some advice: “I think for those who are nervous to network, or take part in a [mentoring] program, the best thing to do is try going to a networking event with a friend first. Really, it’s the first step that is the hardest and this is getting yourself there and talking to that first person.”

Original story courtesy of GiantIVY

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