The art of networking

The University provides opportunities for networking — it’s up to students to go.

by Erin Lengas

We’ve all heard it before, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” — meaning networking with people in your professional field of interest is more valuable than what you learn in school. But how can that be true? We’ve been taught since grade school about the value of a college education.

A graduate’s success after college definitely depends on education, but networking is also important. It never hurts to get your name out there with those who might hire you down the road. It could actually make a big difference in your future. So why not use your time at college not only soaking up information in class but also building a network? Kill two birds with one stone.

The founders of the mobile phone application, Instagram, met the man who helped them start up their company at a fraternity party. Seven years later, they sold it for a billion dollars You never know when or where you will meet someone with the capability to change your future.

So how does one network without being artificial? Unfortunately, that’s not always possible. Networking by nature is a potentially uncomfortable form of forced communication. But sometimes it’s easy, like with the guys at Instagram.

When you’re talking to someone, mention your future goals — maybe whoever you’re talking to has an aunt or parent or neighbor back home that does just that and could connect with you. Or put yourself out there by joining a club related to your interest. Even just talking to other students in class can uncover an amazing opportunity. Maybe one of your peers had a great job or internship and could help you land one too.

But how much should the University of Minnesota be helping students network? They already hold career fairs, offer professional organizations to students, like the Society of Professional Journalists and have events virtually every night in various departments.

The Carlson School of Management already offers many opportunities for its students. They have an undergraduate business career center that offers career coaching, an online job and internship system specifically for Carlson students and mock interviews and workshops. The college also brings in professionals to interview students right on campus.

Should all colleges go to Carlson’s lengths to provide for their students, or should the University continue to focus its budget on education? In other words, what’s really the golden ticket to a future career, who you know or what you know?

The University offers plenty of resources for students, but it’s up to us to take advantage of them. Events on the University’s online calendar might not scream “networking opportunity,” but they definitely can be.

Find an event you’re interested in, and reach out to the professionals there. A University-sponsored event could turn out to be a great networking opportunity. Stay after, and introduce yourself to the speaker, or scope out professionals in the audience. The resources are there, but they won’t be handed to you. It’s up to the go-getters to create their future for themselves. Go to the career fairs the University offers, check the employment website, or research internships on your own.

It’s just as important to go to class as it is to make professional connections outside of class. So when you’re done studying, take the initiative to check out the networking opportunities provided by the University. It’s part of the University’s responsibility to provide these resources, but it’s your responsibility to go.


Erin Lengas welcomes comments at [email protected]