College students hear it again and again – network, network, network! However, building and maintaining professional relationships is often not high on a student’s list of priorities. The thought of initiating a conversation can be intimidating. Even once introductions and connections have been made, it is difficult for individuals to keep in touch. Schedules are typically overflowing with academic, financial, and personal responsibilities, which does not leave a lot of room for attending networking events. It can be easy to put off networking and ignore event opportunities, with the hopes your schedule will be less full later. That is not the case. Forty-nine percent of today’s professionals say that it is difficult to maintain relationships with their network due to a lack of free time, according to a 2017 LinkedIn survey.
Ignoring networking events and failing to create connections is a much easier route, but the truth is that taking that path may not lead you to as good of opportunities. In fact, 80 percent of current professionals believe networking to be a key part of career success. The reality is, connecting with other professionals can mean the difference between finding a great position or passing it by, since 70 percent of people work at companies where they had a previous connection. As Madeline Bell, president and CEO of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, puts it, “You will likely get a job through who you know rather than through your education or work experience.”
So, you know that you need to put yourself out there, but how do you do that with such a limited schedule? Find an event!
Networking events are becoming more and more popular, and now take place in many forms. These are great opportunities to meet other professionals and students with similar interests as yourself, and they are usually low commitment – both money and time-wise.
A great place to start looking for networking events are associations. There is an association for almost every industry or interest you could think of, and they often have discounted rates for students. To search through a list of Indiana associations, visit directoryofassociations.com. Many college campuses also have resources to connect their students with associations or other avenues of attending networking events.
Organizations may also host events to provide students and potential employees with the opportunity to meet their staff and learn more about the organization itself. To find these types of opportunities, start by searching for companies in your field. Generate a list of places that you might want to work for someday and familiarize yourself with its staff, so you know who to look for if you get the opportunity to attend one of the company’s events.
Another great resource for networking events is right here – Indiana INTERNnet! Our organization hosts several intern engagement events every year. We have five events coming up over the course of the summer, all of which are free for interns and their supervisors to attend. To be accommodating of differing schedules, the summer engagement events differ in duration. So, whether you only have a few hours to spend an evening in Fountain Square or you would like to spend a day connecting with peers at the Children’s Museum, there’s an event that will work for you. Of course, you can choose to attend all five if you’d like!
In any case, expanding your network can lead to great new opportunities. Getting started can be intimidating but remember: you won’t get the job if no one knows your name.