A little less time on the Internet, more time networking
In an age dependent on communication technology and the increasing dominance of social networking in our culture, you would think that students would become more sophisticated in their networking smarts, but we have not. Despite constant encouragement from our parents and professors, we typically dismiss good opportunities to network in our field. Our biggest excuse is that we don’t have time to send out emails, develop a LinkedIn account or to attend networking events.
I’m no better than anyone else. It takes me days to pick up my smart phone and send my résumé or a job-shadowing request to an industry professional that I might have met through a corporate mixer or a career fair. For many students, the thought of displaying poor email etiquette or facing rejection can be very intimidating. When we are accustomed to sharing our ideas and experiences over a beer while snuggled in our favorite jeans and T-shirts, suiting up and repressing what comes naturally can be uncomfortable.
When students get uncomfortable these days, they turn to creature comforts like social media.
A 2011 survey conducted by Reynol Junco, associate professor at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, looked into student technology use. After surveying 2,500 students, Junco concluded that college students spend a daily average of 184.43 minutes texting, 101.93 minutes on Facebook, 58.68 minutes emailing, 54.18 minutes talking on their cellphones and 19.54 minutes instant messaging. This comes to 418.76 minutes spent daily, or 6.98 hours per day, hooked to a social media. We spend more than three hours texting and just under an hour emailing. A lot more could get done if we just cut back on the texting and the Facebook use.
Not all of that time spent with technology has to go to waste; some of that time can be used to build a professional network as well. If we cut back on the time you spend on social media, we can build a personal network, get out and join groups to help expand our list of who we know.
The key to a strong network is diversity because networking is not simply about having a friend to pull us up to the next level, but also having a well-rounded circle of ideas and perspectives. In recent decades, the advancements made in communication technology have not only expanded our personal geographical reach, but also that of the global market. More employers are prioritizing hiring staff that are comfortable with interacting with a people from various backgrounds.
When thinking about networking, a good stratagem is to join as many student organizations as possible: social- and career-related. It’s good to have connections with people who are moving in the same direction as you are. However, while this clique of peers can help us study for our next exam and give us a heads up on an internship position, few are in a position to give us highly credible recommendations.
Nowadays, a strong work ethic and a degree aren’t enough to guarantee students profitable positions once they graduate, so some colleges within the University sponsor or provide programs that help students connect with professionals in their respective fields. The Program for Excellence in Selling is a competitive program offered at the C. T. Bauer College of Business that coordinates internships and provide job placement for students.
“The program gives me numerous opportunities to network with professionals,” saidThilye Rinke, a marketing and journalism junior. “Right now, I’m being prospected by two companies. If I had not sought them out or persistently kept in contact with them, I wouldn’t be in the situation I am in now. I’m in a position where I can choose who I want to work for.”
“Unfortunately, most students are not comfortable with reaching out. Networking out of your comfort zone is something one has to push themselves to do,” she said.
Hotel and restaurant management junior Kaylon Beck said some students don’t take full advantage of the networking opportunities available at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management.
“It’s mostly the students that are active and are serious about their careers. In the hospitality industry, joining a well-rounded organization, being active in school and participating in career fairs are great opportunities,” she said. “Whenever I am able to, I try my best to take advantage of these chances.”
When students join networking-oriented organizations like the American Advertising Federation, the Bauer Women Society or a fraternity and become complacent with only using it as a chance to make new friends, they are not utilizing the resources these organizations offer to their fullest potential. It is important for us as students to stay focused on the purpose of networking and exercise our social skills in diverse circles.
Ciara Rouege is an advertising junior and may be reached at [email protected]