July 22, 2018 | ° F

Networking opportunities available online

Ask The Career Specialist

“I hear a lot about networking, and that getting a job is more about whom you know versus what you know ... But what if I don’t know that many people?” asked Emma, a senior.

The word “networking” can be intimidating and overwhelming. Your mind might flash to images of business professionals in fancy attire, shaking hands, with somewhat fake smiles on their faces. They’re conversing about industry trends, the news, their accomplishments and what they do. It might seem like everyone is trying to prove that they’re more exceptional than everyone else. If even the thought of this makes you sweat, rest assured –– you’re not alone.

Let’s take a step back and break down what networking really is: “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups or institutions, specifically, the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.” You can get started by networking from the comfort of your dorm room through LinkedIn or email, and with the assistance of resources, including University Career Services Student Alumni Career Connection and CareerShift.

Start with something familiar, like LinkedIn. University Career Services offers a LinkedIn 101 workshop that teaches you LinkedIn basics, such as how to market yourself by leveraging the platform. There’s a wealth of information available through LinkedIn’s “LinkedIn for Students” section. Once you’re up and running with a basic profile, there’s no better place to do online networking. Begin connecting with former and current supervisors and colleagues, friends, family members and neighbors. LinkedIn gives you an easy and simple way to access your professional network. Through LinkedIn, you can keep up with career milestones and congratulate your connections on a promotion, job anniversary or move to a different organization. If you’re interested in the financial industry and you see that your friend’s parent works in the financial industry, you can connect with her using LinkedIn as a gateway to an in-person conversation. Mention that you’re interested in the financial sector and are wondering if she might have a few minutes to talk with you about her experience and any advice she can offer. Suddenly you’ve gone from online to in-person! 

LinkedIn also has a feature that allows you to get introduced. Let’s say you have an interview with an organization and you’re curious what their culture is like from the perspective of an actual employee.  You don’t know anyone that works for this organization, but through LinkedIn you can see that your college roommate is connected to someone that works there. You can ask your roommate to connect you, or send a request through LinkedIn with an explanation of introduction to the individual that works at the organization. From there you can correspond with this person through LinkedIn, ask your burning questions and relay your interest in the organization.

Having a commonality is always helpful when trying to connect with someone on and offline. This can be anything from a person you both know, an organization you both worked for, a cause you’re both committed to or even a school you both attended.

University Career Services helps students network online through a database of accessible Rutgers alumni willing to serve as mentors, called Student-Alumni Career Connections (SACC). This database can be accessed via the virtual career center, CareerKnight. Right away, you have something in common with all of the potential mentors: Rutgers. Through this application, you can see a potential mentor’s undergraduate major, current position and place of employment. If you’re interested in a career and want to learn about it from someone who’s actually doing it, or if you’re preparing for a career and want to be sure you’re covering all the bases, check out SACC. The tool includes a Student Information Guide resource with helpful tips on how to conduct informational interviews and strategies for putting your best self forward in communications.

Once you’ve networked with individuals through LinkedIn and individuals from Rutgers, try taking online networking a step further. As a Rutgers student, you have access to the CareerShift job-hunting web service that provides job search results from thousands of career sites and job boards. CareerShift also has a “My Contacts” feature with contact information, including LinkedIn profile information, for thousands of contacts. This gives you the capability to reach out and network directly through email with individuals at organizations you’re targeting for an internship or job search.

Networking doesn’t have to be nerve wracking. It’s more manageable if you take small steps toward the larger goal of formal and professional in-person networking. Get your feet wet first through online interactions, then through in-person networking. Start small, dream big and get to work! 

“Ask the Career Specialist” is a column by Rutgers University Career Services that runs alternate Mondays. Submit career questions for future columns by emailing careerservices@echo.rutgers.edu.

Tamara Peters

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