Networking Tips

As I finished up my first year at the University of Iowa, there was one main takeaway that I learned: get involved! So when I got back to my hometown of Des Moines this summer, that was just what I planned to do.

Luckily, a friend had told me about Seize the City, a series of community engagement events and professional development opportunities for summer interns and workers in Greater Des Moines. I signed up right away.

One bonus of the program was that if you attended at least three of the events, you could earn a Mastery of Community Leadership Certificate to add to your resume. The certificate alone grabbed my attention, but by the end of the program I had gained so much more.

5 Networking Tips for College Students

Here are the top five networking tips for college students that I learned from local professionals and community leaders this summer:

1. Get involved. Whether it's volunteering, joining a city committee, or attending events such as #SeizetheCity, the more you get involved, the more connections you'll gain. To get involved on campus or in your community, check out your college’s student activities center or local Chamber of Commerce website for programs.

2. Find career mentors. Leverage your student status by setting up a coffee meeting or informational interview with those you aspire to be like.

Most executives or alumni will agree to coffee with a student who is eager to learn from them; however, it's up to you to earn the second and third meetings.

Remember that it's important to establish relationships with your mentors before you even think of asking them for favors. Once you've built a rapport, they'll be more likely to think of you when opportunities arise.

3. Ask for what you want. It's very difficult to get a leadership position, internship opportunity, new responsibilities at work, or committee spot when you haven't reached out and asked for it. When you're able to put yourself out there and ask for what you want, it not only shows that you really want it but you're able to justify that you deserve it and you’re qualified.

4. Line up an internship. You may want to spend your summer poolside or road tripping with friends, but the best thing you can do for yourself is line up a summer internship. An internship not only serves as great experience and a resume boost, but it also helps you build connections for the future.

Even if you don't want to stay in the same state when you graduate, chances are the people you worked with will be happy to connect you with the people they know around the country – as long as you make a positive impression. It may take many applications before you land an internship, but it's an excellent investment for your future.

If you're feeling lost about where to start looking, one resource is your college career center. The staff can help make your resume stand out and point you to local internships and summer job opportunities. Be sure to check out my previous article 5 Tips for New Interns to maximize your internship experience.

5. Use social media. If you don't have a LinkedIn account, now's the time to establish one. LinkedIn is a great tool for connecting with people, and not just the ones you'll need for references and referrals when it comes time to search for a “real job.” Not all social media channels are going to help your job search, but they can all hurt it.

Young adults especially need to be cognizant of what they're posting on platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. If you're posting pictures of wild nights out or tweeting about how lazy you feel, chances are you're not the candidate a future employer will want to hire.

Use social media as a tool to reach out and connect to others while making sure you're casting yourself in the right light so that others will want to connect with and endorse you. 3 Social Media Mistakes That Could Hurt Your Job Search.

It's all about who you know.

It all comes down to connections when you're searching for a job. For me, this proved to be true when a former neighbor helped me score a summer internship at her company. When the position opened up, she thought of me and let me know. This was purely based off of our social interactions and the fact that she had observed my strong work ethic and positive attitude back when I was a grocery store clerk in high school.

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About The Author

Sarah Fields

Sarah Fields was a School-to-Work intern at Kuder from 2014 to 2015. Her Kuder assessment results and internship experience affirmed her decision to major in marketing with a certificate in event management. She graduated from the University of Iowa in 2018 and is working in the fi ... read more

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