Thursday, March 13, 2014

Networking isn't just about exchanging business cards

Though many students recognize the importance of networking, the concept can be vague, and many students don’t fully grasp how to effectively network.

Though many in the business school have their own networking styles, most agree that successful networking is based on building lasting relationships with other professionals.

Foster Casterline, president of ISAK, said networking goes beyond talking to employers at a career fair.

“It’s relationship building,” Casterline said. “I think a lot of people think that networking is going out and selling yourself like in career-fair-style networking, but that’s not how it really is.”

Casterline also emphasized the importance of humility in networking.

Networking shouldn't be about professional facades,” he said. “As a student, you're there to learn which makes you coachable and genuine. That's who people want to build relationships with.

Networking can and should go beyond an initial conversation. Jennifer Jordan, director of the Business Career Services Center, said she believes professionals and students can each bring something important to the table.

“Networking is a give and take relationship,” Jordan said. “I think a lot of students are very intimidated by networking and feel like it’s kind of opportunistic or self-promoting, but I think it’s a relationship that goes both ways. It can have a professionally-aligned objective, but it can be more broad than that as well.”

Though Jordan emphasizes a two-way street, many students can feel like they have little to offer professionals in return for advice and job opportunities. Cathy Curless, a lecturer in the School of Business, said students can often offer more than they realize. One of Curless’ students once helped her train for and run a marathon.

“That was a pivotal moment for me to realize that there was so much I could gain from somebody younger,” Curless said.

She also said networking allowed her to get ideas for her classes to help her engage students and keep them interested in the topic.

“The more I can understand what motivates twenty-somethings – what engages them, how do you keep their attention in class, what kinds of examples and companies are they interested in hearing about – every time I hear information about that, that helps me a great deal,” she said.

This is the first in a four-part series about networking. Check back for blogs about networking do’s and don’ts, how to follow up after an event and when and where to network.

by Allison Kite