Let’s Talk Networking
We hear it all the time. But what is “networking” exactly?
In my experiences, networking just really means interacting and connecting to people to exchange information and contacts to further a person’s career. Sounds simple? It can be, but it’s also a skill that takes practice.
Networking has been the most valuable skill I have acquired as an undergraduate. Through our everyday conversation, we are actually networking without even realizing it. Networking can lead to a vast variety of opportunities. It is also the reason behind the phrase, “It’s not just what you know, it’s also who you know.” As a third year undergraduate university student, I may not know networking in the professional world; however, I can tell you what I know about networking in college to prep you for the world out there.
What is the difference between networking and everyday conversation? In networking, you are establishing relationships with people who can help you advance in your career path in a more professional setting.
Ever feel like you don’t really have that many friends or know of that many people? Don’t worry, we all have those days. Believe it or not, developing your networking circle is actually easier than you might think because you know more people than you think you know. Anyone you meet can be a part of your networking circle: friends, family, professors, coworkers, organizations, clubs, the coffee shop by your school, alumni from your university, etc. Everyone you meet has the potential to help you out in some aspect of your life.
Personally, most of the opportunities I received in college have been through networking. Internships and Research opportunities are often acquired in your third year and are especially competitive as far as GPA is concerned. In my case, I started to research and received an internship without even applying for it and was not a part of the competitive pool of applicants.
How? You got it, through networking. My Health Psychology professor briefly mentioned to attend her office hours if I was interested in a research she was doing. I met her in her office and she reviewed details of other researches the university conducted. I contacted the Teaching Assistant of my school’s PsychoNeuroEncrinology Lab right away. Through multiple emails and meeting after class, she connected me to the professor in charge of the lab and just like that, I became a research assistant. From this opportunity, I was offered an internship researching the growing obesity rates within the Latino community in the San Joaquin Valley.
Most networking in college starts out with a classmate or a friend. For example, I joined Greek life after hearing about it from a friend. I went through the rush process and found myself in a social sorority with 80 other like-minded women with the same focus, drive, and values. While tabling for an event at school, I asked my sorority sister what her summer plans were and she replied with “I’m going to work at a summer camp in San Diego! Some of these kids have disabilities like depression, anxiety, Ashburger’s Syndrome, and autism.” I went on to tell her how I had never been to camp before and that I love to work with children. She immediately went on her phone and forwarded my information to her boss. That summer, I flew to San Diego, became a summer camp counselor, and had the best summer ever.
So you see, networking can be more casual or more professional. It works on the basis of mutual benefits for both parties. It is really about “How can I help?” rather than “What can I get?” Join an organization of your interest and meet like-minded individuals who can help you develop your leadership skills and advance in your career path. Again, “It’s not just what you know, it’s also who you know.” Good luck!
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Rei is a Psychology student at the University of California, Merced. As a Vietnamese immigrant, she understands the challenge of balancing both Vietnamese and American cultures. She is passionate about equality for minorities and wants to introduce the world of possibilities for first generation Vietnamese-Americans. Rei hopes to inspire the youth by sharing her stories in obtaining higher education and the resources available for them to achieve their own success.