Campus career center encourages student networking

By Abby Shifley and By Abby Shifley

Networking is usually an intimidating and mysterious word to students beginning their college careers; however, this perception of difficulty is a misconception. Networking can be a useful tool to secure a job or internship in a comfortable and personal way.

“Networking is an opportunity to converse and meet with industry leaders in the area a student is interested in,” said Andrea Gutierrez, assistant director at the University’s Career Center. “Whether it is a reception, dinner or meeting, (networking) creates an opportunity to exchange information from both sides. This hopefully leads to a student finding a placement, an interview or job shadowing.”

Gutierrez said it is important to disprove some common myths about networking. She said students tend to have a lot of anxiety when attending a job fair or other networking event. Students feel like they have to rehearse what they are going to say word-for-word. In reality, Gutierrez said employers are not looking to find the person with the best rehearsed speech, but rather the person who makes the most positive impression.

“Employers just want to know what a student has done and who they are as a person,” she said.

Sometimes employers will even look over certain details and judge a prospective employee’s competency based on personality. For example, if the prospective employee does not have the specific major an employer is looking for but has a knack for working with others, that person may receive a job offer.

Gutierrez said she experienced this example first-hand when she was working in admissions. “If I was interviewing a student who wanted to come to BGSU and they stood out in a positive way, I would remember them if we had a job opening.”

Another myth about networking: it is a waste of time, Gutierrez said. Students juggle classes, work and extracurriculars, and they tend to put networking on the back burner. She said students will be glad they started to intentionally network as soon as possible, because a busy schedule is not worth it if a career is not waiting after graduation.

Networking is a time investment, but because a first job is not necessarily the last, Gutierrez said it is critical to build those connections. Students may find new opportunities that arise in their careers as a result of continued networking. These opportunities could even include a new profession if an employee decides to change their career path.

There are often opportunities to network at the University. The fall 2017 Career Center calendar has dozens of events coming up, including a trip to Washington, D.C., and a number of workshops. University and department job fairs are also options. However, not all networking has to take place at a fixed event.

President of Women in Business Leadership, Rachel Kielar, said the best way to begin networking is by starting small, such as working with peers on group projects in the classroom. Group projects are an effective way to learn to communicate with others and develop relationships by looking at goals and objectives.

Kielar said her definition of networking is “learning how to effectively interact with people day to day and professionally.”

If students are looking to start networking, they need only look at the world around them and act. The most essential component in building a successful network and developing networking skills is awareness of opportunities and acting on those opportunities.