by Siobhan Bauer
One of the most rewarding aspects of being a college student is how available people are to be a resource for you. I have been surprised on multiple occasions by the willingness of others to answer my questions, connect me with their colleagues, and share their own career stories.
I have also learned that there are an enumerable amount of opportunities available to you on campus. Whether you are looking for a job, a research position, a volunteer role, or simply just more information about a field that sparks your interest, there are countless people on campus that can help you.
However, with thousands of other students around, it is on you to take the first steps to begin building these connections—a simple email is often all it takes to get the ball rolling. Networking can be a daunting task when you are just starting out, but as a college student, you are in one of the best environments to start making connections and learn how to be an effective networker.
Below are some networking guidelines that I believe will help set anyone in the right direction.
1. Do your homework!
Know who you are emailing. Before you reach out to a professor/advisor/staff member, look them up! If it is a professor, read up on some of the research they have completed. For university staff members, read up on what work their department does, and the role they play in their workplace.
Doing some research will help you be able to articulate in your message why you think they will be able to help you, and ultimately why you are reaching out to them.
2. Have a clear objective.
Why do you want to connect with someone? When you first email someone, make sure you present a clear and concise objective. Always let them know you are a student, and connect your educational and career goals with what they do. Tell them why you think they would be helpful for you to get in touch with, and hopefully, they will be happy to do so.
3. Don’t be afraid of rejection.
It is important to realize is that you have nothing to lose when you start networking – in the sense that reaching out does you no harm and it will not set you back at all. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a lot of people! Although some people may not email you back, or may not be the kind of resource you were looking for, do not get discouraged!
You may run into an instance when a position isn’t available but even if you don’t qualify right off the bat, they now know your name, know you’re interested and you’ll have a leg up the next time you reach out.
All in all, learning how to network is a powerful tool in both your time as a college student and in preparation for your career in the future. Spending the time to practice those skills while you still in school with help you be ahead of the game when you begin setting up your career.
Networking has played a huge role in my undergraduate career – and the first time I put myself out there and got in contact with someone on campus led me to the job I’ve had for over two years.
During my freshman year, I struggled with my newfound free time, and the large gaps in my daily schedule. In high school, my day was packed morning to night with school and extracurricular activities, so my first year of college was much slower moving.
Unsatisfied with my empty schedule, I took a chance, expecting very little to come of it, and emailed the head baseball coach, expressing my interest in getting a student job in the athletic department. He graciously passed my inquiry along to the appropriate party, and after a couple of more emails and a short interview, I was hired in to do Public Relations and Communications in the athletic department and have been here since.
This job has provided me with many opportunities to network even further, which has led to additional employment opportunities and an even longer list of job experience.
….and all it took was one simple email!
Siobhan Bauer will graduate in 2016 from the University of Washington in Medical Anthropology. Siobhan plans to pursue an MBA with a career in health care or hospital management.