Despite the convenience of online job searches and applications, they are not nearly as effective on their own as traditional in-person networking. Much of the daily operations of a business involve employees being present in a workplace or going into the field and working with or for others, not secluded entirely in a technology bubble. With its emphasis on soft skills, only traditional networking can give employers a convincing first impression that a job candidate would be productive in such interactions. Since the majority of hiring happens as the result of networking in its various forms, begin cultivating a professional network in the following ways:
1. Be friendly, outgoing, and supportive of your peers in your college classes. Though it is partly true that you will be competing with your classmates for jobs when you graduate, you may also rely on them for recruiting opportunities. Say a classmate you know quite well landed a job with a reputable company soon after graduation. Six months later, that company is hiring again. Who is going to alert you to the opportunity? Who is going to coach you on what the employer prefers to see in résumés, cover letters, and interviews? Who is going to put in a good word for you with the hiring manager? If you can count on an inside friend or colleague being supportive because they are familiar with you and know you will perform well in that position, your path into that job is so much easier than without that guide.
If you spend your college years passing through like a ghost, however, focusing exclusively on your academic performance and shunning all social activities, you will miss valuable opportunities to connect with the people that may be your coworkers and even managers in your future workplaces. If they are in a position to help you but recall that you just kept to yourself in your old college days, they probably will not want to recommend you to the company because they recognize that your lone-wolf attitude will set you up to fail in that organization.
2. Ask your instructors and program coordinators for advice. Some instructors and program coordinators are highly invested in the success of their students and are eager to recommend them to their industry contacts as a way of assisting their recruitment efforts. This only works, however, if the student has the courage to ask for those connections and recommendations.
3. Attend industry conferences and network with participants. Joining a professional association and attending its meetings and conferences will give you ample opportunities to network with employers and their recruiting agents. As in the previous scenarios, this only works if you are friendly and outgoing. Conference participants who merely soak in others’ presentations and discussions without networking are effectively invisible to the recruiters.
4. Attend career fairs and sign up for interviews with visiting recruiters. Colleges have tight connections with industry partners because they are a greenhouse for the emerging labor pool. When company recruiters come around, be there to ask them about the opportunities they bring. Recruiters are not interested in students who are not interested in them. Attending career fairs and talking to recruiters is a great way of showing interest (Guffey, Loewy, & Almonte, 2016, p. 383).