The phrase “its not what you know, its who you know” has some validity in the career development world. While this idea places an unrealistically high weight on networking, it does convey the importance of interpersonal communication throughout job and internship searching. Below are a few simple ways to build relationships and expand your professional network.
Talk to your professors and peers. This should go without saying—your professors are experts in the field you’re looking to enter. More often than not, they’ve probably worked with many companies and will have a long list of connections. Stop by office hours to chat about your goals and ask for advice on breaking into the industry. Taking initiative will show them that you’re not only a successful student, but also someone who is motivated to develop their career. Peers can also act as a great resource, especially seniors that have multiple internships under their belt. If you’re filling out an application for a certain company, try to find if another AU student has interned there. Both professors and students can offer straightforward advice about a company’s culture.
Go to events on campus. Panels, fairs, and information sessions are all excellent ways to fine-tune your interpersonal skills. Be an active listener and keep business cards handy. Shake hands with employers, talk to panelists about something interesting they discussed, or pass out your resume if you attend a career fair. Doing research on companies before attending events also helps make it easier to strike up conversations with potential future bosses.
Conduct an informational interview. Informational interviews can give you in-depth insight into a company’s actions and structure. By talking to people in an field you’re interested in, you’ll broaden your knowledge of the field and simultaneously build your own list of contacts. Professionals are often eager to chat with you about their company and doing so will help you create a list of places you’d like to intern or work at post-graduation.
Use social media strategically. Besides LinkedIn, several other social media accounts can be utilized to strengthen your network. Follow companies, employees, and industry leaders to interact with their different accounts. Comment on blog posts on Facebook or tweet back at a business that poses a question to their followers. Create a Pinterest board dedicated to your job search and pin posts from companies. Being active online will help your personal brand and encourage others to reach out to you.