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Networking 101: An Essential Tool for College & Study Abroad Students

(photo by: jeln.org)

College students have a lot of juggling to do. There are classes to attend, hundreds of pages to be read at any given moment in time, projects, research papers and exams, as well as figuring out what the heck you’re going to eat for your next meal, and figuring out a study abroad to name a few. But what if I were to tell you that there’s another important component of the collegiate juggling act, too? One that’s equally important, yet often gets overlooked. It’s called networking. (And no, just because you’re on Facebook doesn’t mean you’ve got that one covered.)

It unlikely future employers are going to come to you; you’ll have to go looking for them. According to a report from ABC News, 80% of today’s jobs are found through networking. (http://www.recruitingblogs.com/profiles/blogs/80-of-today-s-jobs-are-landed-through-networking) Two good reasons why it makes sense to start growing relationships now, so that they’re established once you graduate and transition to the working world. This is just one more advantage of studying abroad.  You’ll have the opportunity to network abroad as well.

Let’s take a look at the following tips for getting started.     

Network with other students in your major and/or areas of interest. It may seem obvious, but for many students this is challenging in and of itself. Maybe you find it difficult just to break out of the comfort of your routine with classes and studying, or maybe you have a small circle of friends you spend most of your free time with. Try to introduce yourself to others outside your circle. Strike up conversation with fellow classmates- both native speakers and those in your program. Chances are you’ll have a lot to talk about if you’re studying the same thing. Stay connected to one another after classes end. Share information and resources.

Visit the Career Services Center at your home and host university. The Career Services Center is a valuable resource for all students. Learn how to build a better resume, practice your interviewing skills, and research job opportunities both abroad and at home. It’s also a great place to find out about networking opportunities in which students and alumni connect, on campus recruiting events, and job fairs. Take advantage of all of the services available to make helpful contacts.    

map(photo by: www.ttuhsc.edu)

Participate in campus activities and organizations. Find out what activities and organizations your host university has before you decide which one(s) are right for you. Join the student chapter of the professional organization in your field if there is one. The more involved you are, the more people you’ll meet and connect with, and more you can grow your network. It’ll help you break of your bubble, improve your skills, and maybe even develop new ones- all of which are potential resume builders in the very least. To read more about getting involved on campus visit http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/twice-the-college-advice/2011/09/13/5-reasons-for-getting-involved-in-college-and-how-to-go-about-it.

­­Set up a LinkedIn Profile. LinkedIn is designed for professional networking, but it also allows students with limited professional experience to highlight their academic successes and achievements as well as strengthen their existing network. On LinkedIn, users can conduct research on companies they may be interested in working for, join groups related to their areas of study and participate in group discussions, keep up on relevant industry information, and connect with recruiters.

LinkedInAudit(photo by: www.forbes.com)

Build upon the experience you have. Have you done any volunteer work? A work-study? Do you have a part-time job or have you had a summer job? A paid or unpaid internship?   Do you have a good relationship with your supervisor? Connect, stay in touch, and don’t be shy about asking for recommendations for your LinkedIn profile. Look at each of these experiences as an opportunity to build your network.

Reach out to established professionals in your field. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, or to ask what the advantages and disadvantages to a particular career are. Networking while you’re still in college has a big advantage; there’s no pressure on the person you’re reaching out to since you aren’t looking for employment just yet. Not sure where to begin? Start with alumni. They’ll be glad to offer career assistance.

Don’t overlook your parents’ (and host parents’) friends, and your friends’ parents as potential connections. Like alumni, this is another subculture of people who genuinely want to see you succeed. They have decades’ worth of experience, which also means they’re probably well connected. And you never know who they might be able to put you in touch with.

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(photo by: www.huffingtonpost.com)

Talent, ambition and a solid education are all essential for career success, but it’s clear you also have to know people. There are a lot of great opportunities that you’ll hear about only because of who you know. So be proactive. Don’t let the fear of rejection hold you back. If you find someone doesn’t want to connect, don’t worry. Just move on. The added bonus is that in no time, you’ll be building your confidence, too.

  

Julie Kemeklis

Julie Kemeklis is a freelance writer and language teacher from West Windsor, NJ who writes on a range of topics including travel & culture, and family & parenting. She studied abroad in Costa Rica as an undergraduate student, and received her MA from the University of Georgia’s Department of Romance Languages with a concentration in Spanish literature.

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