Students are told internships and job experience are the way to success. I didn’t realize how true this statement was until I was a junior in college. Most degrees have networking built into their program. Nursing students have to fulfill clinicals, which puts them on the frontlines; education majors have to compete many hours of student teaching. Students build their “networking success” without even knowing it. But how can a person find an internship or gain valuable job experience without any type of networking?
Normally, that’s not possible. Networking taps into a basic human desire to be social, to get to know people, and to form a bond. Often, it really is about who you know.
My problem–I didn’t know anyone. When I was trying to find an internship, I had no idea where to look or how to even start. My major in Communications does require an internship and practicum hours but doesn’t have the same networking component as other majors.That’s why I started by asking for advice, particularly with my professors and with Student Services. It really dawned on me that I needed to be intentional about networking.
“Networking is a critical job-search strategy,” says Darren Noble, the Career Services Director at Crown College. “I have read numerous studies that report more than 80 percent of successful job seekers say networking made all the difference in their searches.”
Here are the five ways I’ve found to network successfully.
1. Start by self-assessing
I had to ask myself a few important questions. What am I really interested in? What are my best skills? What experience do I have, other than performing as one of three single pringles at a comedy show? I have been babysitting since I was 12 years old. I enjoy running to stay in shape. To help myself out, I made a list of my hobbies including volleyball, talking, eating ice cream, more talking, etc. This gave me a better understanding of who I am and how I want to expand my networking goals.
I also thought about how I want my dream internship, job, responsibilities, and goals to look. In order to graduate from college, my major required me to complete an internship. I wanted the internship to give me experience for a future job that could help build my portfolio for a resume. First, I needed to find an internship or job I wanted and then strive for it.
From there, I matched my resume to my desired job: public relations. I decided to match my resume to specific companies. (To find tutorials, samples, and best practices for how to do this, visit our Crown Career Network page.)
2. Connect with individuals
This is one area where I really shine.
When a new person walks into a room, I make it a goal to know their name and one interesting fact; the fact then helps me remember their name. For many, meeting new people can be a big challenge. My advice? Start small. Ask people you are closest to–such as family members, friends, coworkers, professors, students, or administrators–for advice.
Many people overlook this step of connecting with individuals because it can be so basic. For example, I have a dream of becoming a public speaker. When people hear the term they think of someone trying to sell something. A used car salesman or maybe an infomercial guru comes to mind. I do not want and will never be that speaker. I want to be a speaker who informs and entertains people. When I landed my internship, I asked my manager if I was crazy about these life goals. Within a week, he scheduled the entire team to travel to a site to have us explain what we do on the Content Marketing team. I tend to overlook the power of people and the connections they can provide. Asking one simple question can open multiple doors.
Last spring, my professor sent me an email asking students if they would like to help write articles for the college. At the time, I wasn’t very interested in writing but I knew I needed an internship. So I emailed the manager, whom I had never met before, and asked him if he had any internships available. I was scared–and to be honest, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But, I knew I had to apply myself in order to find an internship. Networking is now one of my greatest strengths, and it really helped!
3. Get involved with your community
It’s important to get involved with a local or regional organization. After being hired as a Crown College intern, I found that other people started to notice my published work and are now interested in my plans after college. That’s one thing I didn’t expect.
Getting involved can get your name out for even more opportunities. During my freshman year of college I joined the volleyball team. My teammates turned into my best friends and have given me some of my best memories at Crown. Moving into my junior year the team voted me captain. Danielle Hall, the head volleyball coach, asked me what I was planning on doing with my life after college and, like any normal college student, I told her I’m taking it one day at a time.
She told me to contact Ted Fleener, founder of Club Tonka in Minnetonka. He needed coaches and she thought I would be the perfect fit. I reached out to Fleener and after an interview, he offered me a Head Coach position. From there, I coached a team of 14-year-old girls and noticed how their parents became very curious about my plans after college. I still had the same answer I gave to my coach–I’m taking it one day at time. Some of the parents offered me internships with their companies which could turn into future careers. I never knew getting involved with my community could impact my life so much.
If you’re finding it’s difficult to get involved with a local organization, go ahead and attend a workshop or networking event. Try to put yourself out there. Every spring, Crown offers a Career 360° Job/Internship Fair where over 40 local businesses, churches, and organizations come to the college. There, students have the opportunity to introduce themselves and expand their connections to an internship or job.
Another option is to volunteer at local events or conferences. If you can’t find any professional associations in Minnesota, take a look at:
- American Marketing Association (AMA)
- Education Minnesota Student Program (an affiliate of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers)
- The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA): Minnesota Chapter
4. Conduct informational interviews and job shadows
All experience is beneficial! In my senior-level course called Communication Portfolio, our final grade was a mock interview with our professor who received a B.A. from Pensacola Christian College and completed his Ph.D. from Regent University. This was not his first rodeo and he was not easy on us students. That mock interview prepared me for future job interviews by giving me the necessary confidence to answer questions clearly and correctly.
I have learned a lot from meeting and speaking with professionals in my field of interest. Many professors can share stories of what not to do and what to do in the work field. The important question to ask is if something goes wrong at work, an internship, or an interview, how can I do things differently? Or, if things are going well, I need to ask myself how I repeat that same experience next time.
I wish I would have conducted more informational interviews or arranged to “shadow” more professionals in their job while in college. Each interview and internship I participated in gave me more and more confidence in myself and my skills.
5. Start young, start now
My first job was at a Dairy Queen when I was 16 years old. I worked there for three years because I love ice cream. What can I say? That job prepared me to learn how to handle stress, how to confidently talk to bosses, and try every Blizzard sold at Dairy Queen. Who knew that one job I thought was meaningless would equip me for an internship and future jobs?
You might think that a job vacuuming carpets at your church won’t help you network, but it’s all about taking baby steps. Vacuuming carpets could turn into getting a promotion within the church. You never know where a little bit of hard work can lead. The pastor of the church may notice one day that the floors are a lot cleaner and acknowledge your hard work and recommend you contact someone else to clean their floors…and they could give you a full-time job someday. The possibilities are endless. Or, even if no one sees your work well done, it can build your character to become a better person.
Don’t be afraid to take the first step and expand your horizons!