Monday, November 1, 2010

Career fairs & the importance of networking

By Emily Frank, Career Services Counselor, Office of Career Services

Do you find that your students are intimidated or confused by the word “networking”?
Are they unsure of why they should attend a career fair? We are here to help!
Networking is simply connecting with others in a targeted, career-minded way. As the old saying goes, it’s not what you know but who you know. Building a professional network is what can get Metro students and alumni to know the right “who.”

A targeted, career-focused networking effort can pay big dividends whether you are attending a career fair, a professional association meeting or just talking with others about your job search. Using the right tools like a resume, doing research on the industry and companies of interest, dressing appropriately and preparing questions to get the conversation started are all tools that can make networking flow. Good networkers spend time preparing. The successful job seeker is the one who does the preparation necessary.

A great starting point for network-building is at the four job fairs that take place on campus every year. (Metro runs two and UCD runs two,
and everyone is welcome at both.) These are great opportunities for job-seekers to meet professionals in a wide range of professional companies and capacities. Unfortunately, the recruiters at fairs are as human as the rest of us, and they don’t always do as good a job of reaching out to the people wandering around the Turnhalle as we might hope. To help students understand what to do to get the most out of an event like this, the Office of Career Services is happy to host preparation workshops.

Another great way to get started networking is through what we call informational interviewing. This is pretty much what it sounds like: people seeking leads and information regarding an industry, a career path or an employer by talking to people in those roles. We are always happy to talk with students about how to go about starting this process.

Finally, don’t overlook friends and family, professional organizations, campus clubs and activities, and social networking sites. Many job-seekers already know people who can help them get connected with employers but simply haven’t asked. Professional organizations often offer reduced membership fees to students, and clubs and activities are a great way to meet a wide variety of people with similar interests and skills. LinkedIn offers several good tutorials on making the most of the site.

And remember, if you would like us to come to your class and talk about any of this, we are happy to do so!

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