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The Secret to Networking

“Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider you for the Summer 2020 Internship, but at this time we regret to inform you…” 

If you’re like me and the rest of the college population applying for internships or jobs, then you’ve received this message more times than you’d like. Let’s face it: rejection is hard. It’s especially difficult when you know you have the potential, but the door still seems to close in every direction. As a college junior currently applying for summer internships, I know firsthand that it’s not an easy task. How do you compete when there are 200 other applicants with similar experiences and skillsets?  How is it possible to stand out?!

But before you get defeated, hear me out… there is a way to combat the vicious cycle: Networking.

Networking? Most of us don’t know what networking is, where to even begin, or are afraid to put ourselves out there. I’m here to tell you that networking is not scary and it’s not difficult. Networking is no longer an unheard-of term, done only by business professionals. As a college student just getting your footing, this is the exact time to expand your network and get your name and brand out there.

So how can you do this successfully and respectfully?

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is an amazing tool that provides numerous opportunities for networking as one of the only social media sites made solely for business professionals. LinkedIn acts as your online resume, where you can showcase your experiences, current job, promotions, and career events. You have the opportunity to connect with people from every industry. If you’re just starting out, I would recommend connecting with your friends. As you build your network, LinkedIn will suggest people to connect with who have similar interests or connections. But don’t stop there. You can look up companies and see if you have any mutual connections of people who work there. These contacts and Clemson alumni who work at the companies that you’re interested in applying to are great people to connect with. When you send your request to connect, be sure to include a professional message telling them about yourself!

Informational Interview

You’ve created a LinkedIn profile, and now, you have a network! What’s next? The informational interview. An informational interview is a 15-30-minute conversation with someone who is working at a company that you’re are interested in or who holds a position that you aspire to be in.  This type of interview enables you to get your name and story out there, without explicitly saying “GIVE ME A JOB!” More often than not, once you speak with this person, they might allow you to use them as a recommendation or offer to take your resume. I’ve done numerous informational interviews with Clemson alumni and people that I have reached out to on LinkedIn. After our conversation, they all ended up offering to take my resume and forward it to a recruiter in their company. The key to the informational interview is to go into it not expecting anything, especially a job offer. Instead, keep an open mind, listen, and take this time to ask the person questions about their background, how they got their position with the company, and even career advice. This person is a valuable resource that might just open a door for you!

TigerLink

If you’re a current Clemson student or alumni, you no doubt love Clemson. I don’t just mean love. I mean LOVE, like LOOOVEE Clemson. And because you love Clemson so much, you are appreciative of what this college has offered you. A Clemson professor once told me, “Take the time now to network because as college students you have an advantage of being in a position where people want to help you.” I’ve realized from taking this advice that Clemson alumni love to help Clemson students. So, reach out to alumni and tap into this shared connection.

To start, search for alumni on LinkedIn. Or, an even better resource that many students don’t know about is TigerLink: https://tigerlink.clemson.edu/. With this resource, you can search Clemson Alumni on the site by filtering based on location, company, industry, etc. After filtering, select people that fit your guidelines, then hit “connect”. This tool allows you to write a note to them, and even helps you format a professional message. Take advantage of this tool because once you’re out of college, amazing resources as such are not easily at your disposal.

Face-to-Face Interaction

Ultimately, you may find yourself at this last option and say to yourself, “Absolutely Not.” An actual face-to-face interaction with a recruiter at a career fair can be intimidating. However, this face-to-face conversation allows your personality to shine, and it helps the recruiter to see the quality person you are beyond your resume. As well, it allows them to put a face to the name, and hopefully, they will remember you. During this interaction, some simple tips to remember are to state your full name, (yes, first and last), your college year, your major, and what you are looking for (whether that be an internship, job, an interest of yours, or something that is relevant to your knowledge of the company). Finish off with a strong handshake with eye contact! If you remember to complete these tips, then the recruiter can match your skills and experience with the best role for your career goals. Lastly, the most important thing to remember in a face-to-face interaction is to be yourself. Be genuine, be professional, and recognize that they are only a person and you are just having a conversation! You got it!

Hopefully, by now, you realize that networking isn’t some foreign topic that you should NEVER do but something manageable and essential to put yourself ahead of your competition. Now, get out there and talk with some people. You never know where a simple “Hello” might take you!

Kelly Cherry

Clemson '21

I'm a junior Marketing and Communications double major at Clemson University. I'm involved as a member of Delta Zeta sorority, Delta Sigma Pi Business Fraternity, and Calhoun Honors College. I love to journal, do yoga, travel, eat lots of Mexican food and I am constantly on the quest for the best acai bowl. Through my writing I hope to inspire and connect with other college students!
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