Ah, Holidays. It truly is a wonderful time of the year, stressful but rewarding. You find yourself swept up in the flow of cheerful holiday spirit, bright twinkling lights and reconnecting with the people you care about. As a student at the University of Denver, the holiday season is a time to regenerate my energy from the past quarter. After completing my last final, I am met with the realization that the next six weeks of my life are completely blank. As I spend time with family and friends, slowly reintroducing myself to society, I also like to set aside time for my future career.
I once had a friend tell me, “while you are still a college student you have the power. When you graduate, you will become one of the many.” What she meant is that as a college student there is much greater opportunity for networking with employees, than there is after you hang up your cap and tassel. Why? Because this is the time to learn and discover. You are not desperately searching for a job; any that will take you; but, instead, you are building your connections with potential employees. It is like a relationship; you are getting to know them, and they are getting to know you. Whether it be through career fairs or informational interviews, during this time of your life you are building up trust between yourself and employers. Think of it as a long-term interview, except it is in a much more comfortable setting and less intense.
With this in mind, how do you make the most of your time while at DU? We now know that networking is important, but how do you start? This is a question that I found myself asking constantly. As an introvert, the word itself — networking—has me running in the opposite direction but if there is anything that I have learned in the past two years, it’s this: You are not networking for a job; you are networking for personal growth. When you stop seeing networking as a means to an end you will soon realize that it’s much more enjoyable. When you contact a professional in a field you are interested in, you are essentially asking to get a glimpse into their professional life whether it be the career of a businessman, lawyer or a graphic designer–whatever it is that you are interested in. Going back and forth you will soon realize that people in general love to talk about what they are good at, especially if it is something they love doing. This is wonderful for you because it eliminates the “I don’t know what to talk about” aspect and they’ll share a lot of personal qualities about their job you might not otherwise learn through a job description.
Where do I find these professionals? If you are like me, you may be asking yourself this question. Wondering do I have to go to strictly networking events? No! The amazing thing about contacting professionals is that they are everywhere!
Have you ever taken a train downtown and sat next to a man in a business suit? I have, and it absolutely astonishes me the conversations I can have with people in such situations. Just the mention of “College student from the…” captures their attention. You would be amazed to find that they have studied at DU, too, or work for a company that hires DU students. Such simple interactions could earn you a new LinkedIn contact and a promise/encouragement that if you have any questions about this or that, feel free to reach out.
With this in mind, I hope you take some time to network this winter break. As I described before, it really isn’t a scary process. You are, after all, a student who wants to learn. What do you have to lose? This is also a great time to meet someone you’re connected with on LinkedIn or even admire. Most importantly have fun! Learn something new, and use that knowledge to take one step closer to the job of your dreams.