The Career Blog

Career advice and perspectives from Gies Students to Gies Students.

How to Network with No Connections

September 2020

Author: Samantha Heyman

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”.

We’ve all heard this line at least 100 times. And we all know that it has some truth. But how are college students expected to network, when they don’t have any connections? Most students don’t have family members who work at the fanciest companies, or friends who can get them their dream job. The good news is that everyone, and especially college students, can learn how to network. And you don’t need any connections to start.

Here are 5 tips to network in college, with no connections.

1. Get Involved on Campus

Getting involved as a student on campus is essential for multiple reasons. Not only does it allow you to explore different interests and learn new skills, but it also introduces you to motivated people who could someday become your colleagues.

You may not realize it now, but the organizations you’re a part of in college are helping you build a network, connect with other students, mentors, alum, speakers, and more. These connections can be crucially beneficial down the line, and you’ll have people to lean on if you need advice, or you’re interested in a certain job or industry.

2. Attend Career Fairs, Company Sponsored Information Sessions, and Utilize Business Career Services

Next, it is important to make the most of your resources on campus. A little bit of digging around for these opportunities could change your life forever. The Career Fair, company sponsored information sessions, and Business Career Services are constantly hosting events and presenting opportunities every semester. Recruiters attend Career Fairs and companies host information sessions on campus because they find value in attending, and are interested in the bright students. These are perfect times to establish professional relationships with recruiters that stem from an authentic place. Even those students who aren’t actively looking for full-time roles find these fairs and sessions to be beneficial. At the very least, they can hand out their resumes, learn more about the industry and different roles, and make contacts. Lastly, Business Career Services also offers immense opportunities to students. Students can learn more about internship and full-time opportunities with BCS career advisors, and students can attend dozens of events per semester that are hosted by BCS on Gies Groups.

3. Develop your Online Presence and Utilize LinkedIn

A professional and unique online presence is important, now more than ever. Authentic relationship building can still be developed through technology, but it is important to invest time into creating a digital profile that accurately reflects the way you want to be perceived. One way to do this is to invest time into creating a LinkedIn profile. A professional LinkedIn profile can open up doors to thousands of alumni, professionals, recruiters, and students. Once one has a LinkedIn profile, they have the power of reaching out to alumni, and other professionals to learn more about their roles. People are usually ecstatic to talk about their jobs -- so reach out to people with interesting roles to learn about what they do. In addition to a LinkedIn profile, a website and an online portfolio are also popular. These typically have links to past projects, blogs, personal and professional experiences, and more for employers to access to see your work and learn more about you, beyond your resume.

4. Get to Know Your Professors

Students often forget how valuable of a resource their professors are. Not only are professors incredibly bright, but they can also provide you with valuable insights on industries, direct you towards fitting career paths, potential internship or full-time opportunities, or introduce you to past students who are working now.

The plethora of information and resources professors obtain are often overlooked by students, and a healthy, professional relationship with a professor can take a student very far. Make sure to keep in touch with them, and ask questions along the way.

5. Ask for Informational Interviews

Informational phone calls are one of the most valuable opportunities for those looking to learn more about the first-hand realities of a job. Are you interested in working in a certain industry, in a certain role, or have a dream company you’re curious about? Then this is the perfect opportunity to utilize. These conversations allow you to ask professionals questions about their career, the skills needed to be successful, how it is working in an industry, and what to expect if you pursue a career in it. For just 15-20 minutes, students can learn about a professional and their career, and this call even has the potential of turning into even bigger opportunities and opening more doors. Most people love talking about their careers -- and especially to students -- so it is always worth asking! You never know who you’ll talk to, and what you’ll learn. A 20 minute conversation could change your life!

It’s normal for networking to feel daunting, especially when one has minimal connections.

The trick is to get involved, be brave enough to make the first move, and invest time into finding opportunities and developing your online presence.

Networking is important, but it’s not impossible. The more you do now, the more doors will open later.

The best investment you will ever make is in yourself, so get started today.

Your Secret Weapon: Informational Interviews

(July 2020)

Author: Samantha Heyman

College can be difficult. In a sea of balancing challenging courses, RSO’s, friendships, jobs, and more -- students are often overwhelmed with the amount of things thrown at them daily. But perhaps, amidst all the chaos, the most daunting part of college for students comes from the pressure to figure out what it is they want to do with their professional lives. What is it that makes them tick. And what it is they want to do after college. But that is much easier said than done.

One of the simplest and most effective ways students can learn about a certain career path is to ask people in the position they’re interested in questions. This is otherwise known as an informational interview.

An informational interview is a meeting between someone interested in learning more about a career, and someone working in that career. The main point of these conversations is to learn. They’re not meant to ask about job openings or help getting a referral, but are instead used as an opportunity to ask questions and benefit from others' knowledge and experiences.

These conversations allow students to explore different career paths, industries, and company cultures from the people who have experienced it first-hand. They often even have the potential of opening up new doors, opportunities, and allowing individuals to expand their network.

CONDUCTING THE INTERVIEW:

Now, it’s time to talk about the fun part. The actual interview and the opportunity to ask questions about the professional’s role, industry, and overall career.

The best advice for this portion is to do your research. Take the time to research their organization, career path, role, and region they work in. Not only will this impress them and show your interest, but it will also lead to a more exciting and beneficial conversation.

Here are 10 sample questions to get the conversation going:

1. Can you please describe your typical day and the types of projects you work on?

2. What do you enjoy most about the work you do? / What are you most excited about right now?

3. What do you like least about your work?

4. What kinds of problems do you deal with?

5. How does your job affect your general lifestyle?

6. How relevant to your work is your undergraduate major?

7. What do you wish you had known about your career field when you were in college?

8. What skills, abilities, and personal attributes are essential to success in your job/this field?

9. Are there specific skill sets or training that would make someone more competitive than the typical college graduate?

10. Can you suggest anyone else I could contact for additional information?

Finally wrap things up at the end of your agreed upon time, and thank them. Then send a follow-up thank you note. And in the future (typically 3-4 months), reach out again with an update and catch up.

Take Aways:

All in all, informational interviews are one of the most valuable opportunities to understand if a career path seems like an appropriate fit for someone. And a brief 20-30 minute conversation may even open up roles people didn’t know existed.

Take advantage of this opportunity, and reach out to people! The worst they can say is no, and most people love talking about what they do.

It is very important to figure out what it is you enjoy, and there is no better time than now to figure that out. Steve Jobs once stated “your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking.”

In other words, try to figure out what type of work makes you happy. And a great way to help figure that out is to conduct informational interviews.