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Building Your Network as a College Student

As a junior in college, I am facing the seemingly harsh reality of life after college. Last fall I realized that I needed an internship for the following summer, and I felt completely lost on how to begin. Currently, I just finished my first internship, and reflecting back, here are some things that I needed to hear last fall.

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Firstly, we all know how important undergraduate internships are for life after college but little of us know how to properly find-out and apply for them! Asking early is one of the most important ways to guarantee your experience. In October 2019 I knew I wanted an internship close to home so I could live with my family. My advisor gave me a very important piece of advice: it is as easy as picking up the phone and asking; you will never know if you don’t ask. Next thing I knew, I was picking up the phone and dialing Mesa County Public Health. After asking “what are your internship opportunities in epidemiology” I found myself sitting in an interview followed by a job offer. Now that I have finished my three-month internship at the first phone call, I made last October, I realized the value of calling people directly. So often, people are inclined to communicate only through email and online applications. Personally, I do not think I would have found my internship without the tool of interpersonal communication. [bf_image id="4m7thf759z67zbxhfqzn8ch"]

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Secondly, all undergrads have been told the intimidating phrase ‘build your network’ but not many can say they knew how to start. During my freshman year of college, I heard this motto too many times; I felt more intimidated from the term ‘networking’ than I had felt during move-in-day. One of the ways that I overcame this anxiety was through the resources at my university. At the club fair sophomore year, I found an excellent new opportunity. The club was (and still is) called PLEN: Preparing Women To Lead. Automatically, I was intrigued. The non-profit organization works with students all throughout the U.S. hosting conferences in Washington, D.C. Next thing I knew, I was attended a week-long conference in the city with three other students from my University. I attended the Women In STEM conference and was able to meet with professionals in the science field who were actively influencing Washington policy. I fell in awe of the network and its mission. Now I find myself Co-President of St. Lawrence University’s PLEN Chapter. I am very grateful for the networking stills that PLEN has taught me and I am passionate about empowering women from all backgrounds to build their network and make connections. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all conferences have been moved to virtual experiences. I believe this is a great opportunity to affordably attended conferences and build your network in a more accessible way. I strongly recommend visiting plen.org to learn more information!

 

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Finally, LinkedIn and Handshake have become a vital communication tool, but just how helpful are they? As a junior in college, I currently use LinkedIn more often than Facebook, and I will tell you why. Digital platforms have become second nature to recruiters and interviewers. In a panel at my university, top recruiters admitted their likeness to check an individual’s social media accounts. Because most networking opportunities have transitioned to virtual experiences, LinkedIn has become my go-to for connecting to alumni. Connecting with alumni can help you redefine your future career or education plans and can even lead to internship, co-op, or job opportunities. In search of Spring 2021 internships, I have been utilizing the “Alumni” tab under my university LinkedIn page. I was in awe of how many people are willing to help you out if you just ask for 15 minutes to talk about their experience. I have had the chance to connect with several alumni that have been happy to help a fellow Laurentian. Without platforms like LinkedIn and Handshake, I would not have been able to further build my network because of COVID-19. I recommend spending some time spicing up your profiles, especially profile pictures (make sure they are professional).

The most important takeaway is using your available resources because you’ll find yourself much further along in doing so. Join your campus clubs, talk to your career center, ask alumni, and surround yourself with individuals that are also passionate about success and figuring out a plan after graduation. Don’t be afraid to ask questions especially to individuals involved in education (they are always there to help).

 

 

 

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Hi, my name is Lily and I am a Biology major at St. Lawrence University. On-campus I work in the biology lab and as an admissions ambassador. Outside of classes I enjoy staying active outside, listening to podcasts, and spending time with close friends.
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