The Importance of Making Professional Connections in CollegeBy Simone Dekryger on March 25, 2020
When you picture your future career, what do you see? Whether you are graduating college, a senior in high school or anything in between, there are steps you can take to start building toward that vision. The cornerstone of it all is networking.
For those who don't know, networking is the process of creating beneficial relationships with peers and professionals who (usually) share your interests—employers, professors, academic aids or potentially anyone you meet. Specifically, networking helps you connect with businesses and business owners to help you scout potential jobs.
I have had my fair share of experience with networking through various jobs during my college career, but I am far from being an expert. So, I talked to a few professionals on campus to obtain some more insight on networking.
Why Should I Create My Network?
"Thriving in today's economy requires relationships," said Anne Gaertner (M.S. ’11), senior director of employer relations and internships at Cornerstone University. "Every vocational calling from an author and accountant to a photographer or a physician requires the ability to develop and maintain relationships."
Connecting with people is not only a recommendation to help you get ahead but a necessary component of every career. Whether you are graduating high school looking to explore a new division or finishing college with the intent of pursuing work in your field, networking can help you get where you want to go.
Dr. Rachel Hammond (B.A. ’99) chairs the CU Business Division and serves as an associate professor. Part of Hammond's job is to prepare her students for their careers.
"Networking can connect students to future employers and colleagues in their field and provide direction, support and encouragement as they study and start to look for internships and full-time jobs," Hammond said. "It can also open up opportunities for mentoring relationships that can last beyond college."
The good news is, you likely already have a built-in network to start from! Family, friends and anyone else you already know who share interests may be able to help you make connections through their own friends-of-friends and acquaintances. But it's up to you to start the process.
Luckily, Cornerstone offers many aids to its students to get the ball rolling.
"We've built a framework to support students to develop themselves," said Gaertner. "There are opportunities such as the bi-annual career fair and the nonprofit internship and volunteer fair. Students can also check out the events section on Handshake, talk to a Life Path Peer Adviser or a member of the Center for Career and Life Calling."
For a network of resources to be strong, there has to be a sense of trust and mutual benefit for all parties involved. As Hammond pointed out, a networking relationship isn't just about what you get out of it, you should consider what you have to give your connection as well.
"Look for people that you have natural connections with already, either through current relationships, colleagues or an alumni network," said Hammond. Your professors and former employers could prove hugely beneficial to your future career. Use what you already have, but don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone as well.
Many students do not start thinking about networking until late in their college years, but it's never too early to start building connections. This skill could move you forward in life where others fall behind. Create a strong base for yourself now, and you will be able to lean on it for the rest of your career. If you are interested in starting your network, talk to the Center for Career & Life Calling at Cornerstone.