Joya Mullen, Graduate Student at Austin Peay State University – Industrial/Organizational Psychology
College Networking: Fast Track to Success
Of all of the career worthy information I have learned in my four years of undergrad and my two years of graduate school, the importance of networking is number one. For myself, being a lifelong introvert, I always kept a small group of friends I was comfortable with and did not think about going out of my way to expand my inner circle or my outer circle for that matter. I spent the first two years of my college experience working hard during the week but I would delegate my weekends and breaks from school to enjoy myself. When returning to school I would hear stories my classmates would tell me about working as research assistants and office summer jobs that would grow into full-time positions.
On my own I would apply for jobs through traditional job boards. This led to little to no feedback from employers. Within over twelve months of trying on my own and after over 200 emails and subsequent cover letters to potential employers, my hard work was returned with two legitimate interviews for unwanted sales positions and dozens of rejection emails. I did not understand, classmates with less impressive transcripts were getting more opportunities. I had to find out from observing others and asking questions that beginning a career is more about connecting with people in power then only excelling academically.
During my time at Georgia State University I was local to the area so it was not necessary to spend the extra tuition on room and board. Per the advice of a friend I applied to live on campus for a semester. The idea behind this was that I will be able to use free time from class to be around people and more freely go to events so that I be more involved in my college atmosphere. Being a commuter student made extra effort to be on campus a chore. The extra time on campus was an excellent experience. The first step in effective networking is to determine what you want to get out of networking. Are you trying to secure a new position, meet new people or adapt to a new location? Making small goals to overcome this dilemma made it a simpler task when going completely out of my comfort zone seemed overwhelming.
My goals consisted of trying to land a job and get experience. With my desire to pursue a career in Human Resources and Recruiting I worked with University Career Services to land a job in the campus book store where I was able to interact with many students and professors as well as volunteering in the University Career Services Center, to get hands on experience in the field I wanted to pursue. This approach worked for me. I was able to use my experience and networking to land an internship in a local medical billing facility that turned into a full time position as a Human Resources Assistant. Not waiting until after graduation to be proactive in my career search and using the networking opportunities around campus was very beneficial to gain the experience that employer’s desire.