By Aimee Jewell–
While filling out my first job application at age 16, I was confused as to who I could write down in the references section, seeing that I barely knew any adults, other than friends’ parents and people that I babysat for. It was something I didn’t realize then, but realized since: keeping up relationships with mentors and making new contacts is vital for success, whether you’re applying for a job or simply running for SGA. No matter what age you are; 16 to 58, an employer will always need references to know that you’re an accomplished human being.
Networking is the key to making quality contacts. Meeting others in and outside your circle comes in handy, not only when you’re in search of jobs after college, but also when you’re looking to succeed in general. Looking for an internship? Having established relationships with business professionals might land you an interview.
But you might not always be ready to meet the right people. Some events are deemed “networking events,” so you go in knowing that you’ll be meeting new people. Other times, you may not know you’re going to be meeting anyone important.
I once met one of the most successful entertaining correspondents in Louisville – in work-out clothes. She had just finished at the gym, and had I not known who she was, I probably wouldn’t have made that great of an impression. This experience taught me that I need to have a smile on my face, a firm handshake, and an “elevator speech” of sorts to present to anyone – no matter what their importance. I didn’t need anything from her then, but it was important to me to make a good impression. A year later she offered me an internship. To be successful at a job, one must know how to communicate effectively and it is through networking you can practice those skills.
But in order to make those contacts, you have to put in the work. For instance, Louisville is known as a “big-small city.” Doesn’t make sense to you? Think about it this way: almost every business professional you meet in the city will know a handful of others that you don’t know. Meet enough people and your name is given a weight, bearing what those people you’ve already met think about you. Networking is about building a reputation, establishing yourself, and making sure you represent your own personal brand to the best of your abilities. What you do in both private and public have some sort of an influence as to what people think about you, which means that if you act poorly, you’re representing yourself poorly.
Meeting other professionals may sound easy, but there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes before you’re ready to network. To make contacts and succeed in your field of study, it is important to be professional and represent your “brand” well. Dressing nicely, printing out resumes or business cards, and being open to talking with others are all important when it comes to meeting new professionals. But what matters most is your attitude.
So where can you network? Literally, everywhere. Networking is simply meeting others and establishing a well-rounded group of people who know who you are and what your personal brand stands for. From class, to RSO events, to city-wide events, there are numerous organizations at your fingertips to help you get to know others. Any collegiate organization is an opportunity to show your stuff, but community organizations like the Young Professionals Association of Louisville, YPAL, and New2Lou help, too. So, slap on a smile, gain networking experience and show everyone how awesome you are (in the most subtle sense, of course)!
Photo courtesy of medixteam.com