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How Networking In College Can Be Your Best Friend

Entering college, graduating and all of the in-between can be a bit of a tedious and daunting task. In terms of the future, looking ahead into what will serve you best in your chosen career path is hard enough, let alone figuring out which career path you will end up choosing. Having said that, it would be a death wish to do it all by oneself. The good news is that you don’t have to. At UCLA, and many other colleges and universities, there are alumni mentoring and networking programs in place that make you feel more focused, prepared and guided throughout your college and career experience. For me in particular, getting involved in the alumni mentoring program at my school allowed me to meet my mentor, whom I am still extremely close to today. Mentors in your 20's helps you to gain the guidance, experience and connections needed to shape your college experience into one that can aid you in the present, in terms of academics and extracurricular activities, as well as the future, securing connections, job experience and networking skills that equip you for a successful life and career ahead. [bf_image id="7j3z3vr53bnkhnqx7fvj4pxp"]

The bottom line is that it really doesn’t matter what year you are in school, what your experience level is, or if you don’t have a completely concrete plan of what you want to do post-graduation. So what matters? What matters is making connections and having a mentor that can help guide and maneuver you toward the avenue in which your passions lie. Whether or not you think you will attend law school, medical school or graduate school in any capacity, having a mentor in college can help you grow as a person and shape your academic interests and career passions in so many ways. Alumni mentors are, truly, underrated. Too many college students go many quarters or semesters without even knowing they can gain access to one, leaving such an invaluable resource untouched when they could have benefited from their guidance and advice. Moreover, they wouldn't have had to go through such a grueling personal and academic process alone. 

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This is why the experience of having an alumni mentor and the close relationship with someone who is truly there to help you grow as an individual and further develop your academic and professional future are essential. My mentor, Kristina Doan Strottman, has gone above and beyond to help me grow further into my own- not only as a woman, but also academically and professionally as a whole. Meeting Kristina my freshman year at UCLA, I was so impressed, inspired and further impassioned in my own right to have such a strong, successful and kind female role model to help guide me through the subsequent years of my college experience, law school and beyond. As I had always had such strong female role models in my life thus far, it was all the more empowering to find such an accomplished and down to earth mentor as Kristina.

As a current junior at UCLA, the relationship I have with Kristina has only grown stronger than it was my freshman year, from on-campus chats, to lunches, to zoom calls. We can talk about anything: school, work or just life. It isn’t stressful or intimidating in the least to shoot each other a text, have a phone call or just chat, which is what makes having a mentor in your field of interest in college so exciting. When finding and connecting with a mentor in college, you don’t need to feel like every chat you have is an interview, or every question they ask you has some deeper meaning to discredit your intellectual worth. Having a mentor in college is about making that connection and relationship with someone who has been in your shoes, persevered, learned, grown and experienced success in their personal, professional and social life. A mentor is someone who is now ready to give you the advice and guidance you could very well benefit from to forge your own path. Having a college mentor allows you to make connections that you may not have made before, whether that be in terms of research with professors, colleagues with job opportunities or other friends/peers that can offer further advice on specific questions you may have about the future. [bf_image id="rq5pnv5sj525889j2nwkgpk"]

As someone who has always been a planner, wanting to have every aspect of my life planned out to a T, I have learned that it really is alright not to. Kristina has taught me the importance of growing and deepening your passions, making connections and learning from people that are in fields that you may even have the slightest interest in, and going from there. I have learned that perfection is not the end all be all. Instead, we should work on finding what makes us happy.  So, whatever it is that may be holding you back from reaching out and making those connections, let it go. Don’t let fear of rejection, worthiness, intelligence, experience or anything else for that matter stand in the way of your future. Make your own path and write your own story, but don’t feel like you need to stand alone to do it. The biggest and most meaningful self-growth is not achieved by self-doubt and isolation, but by taking the leap into learning, growth and acceptance where guidance from others can aid your journey in being all the more successful.

Katherine Pappas is a third-year Political Science and Philosophy double major from the Bay Area. During her free time she loves to go on hikes, adventures with her friends, travel the globe and find the cutest coffee shops around campus! In the future, Katherine is planning on going to law school and becoming an attorney specializing in human rights, M&A or international law.
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