Friday, September 5, 2014

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone: The Importance of Networking

By Ruying Du
MS Marketing, Simon Business School, University of Rochester

Are you too shy to reach out to professionals? Do you lack confidence to sell your personal pitch? Have you ever felt ashamed of letting opportunities slip away? Believe it or not, I do.

One year ago, full of excitement and ambition, I set foot on America believing that a top tier university master’s degree can help me thrive in this “wonderland”. Business school turned out to be very intensive. Occupied by the succession of course projects and trying to learn new software within a short period of time, I excused myself from networking. 

The one-year program concluded very quickly. Only a few classmates got job offers right after graduation. For the other recent graduates, job-hunting became our “full time job”. Just like looking for a needle in a haystack, online application response rates are very low. According to a friend who majored in finance, out of the 100 jobs she applied online, only 3 replied back. So, you may ask, “Is there a shortcut?” The answer is networking.

Networking and resources from your school’s career services office can ensure a higher response rate. All of my classmates who received job offers right after graduation found job postings through the career office. However, opportunities posted come and go very quickly. You need to check very often for new postings and it is highly recommended to build connections with career services staff. Given the fact that career services staff are willing to help students launch their careers, this can be a relatively easier way of networking.

Networking is not limited to people you are familiar with. Reaching out to professionals in your target company/industry can also be very effective. Even though you may not always get an employee referral, you can always have a better understanding of job content, which helps you make better decisions. 

Knowing the importance of networking is far from enough. You need tactics and a proactive attitude to step out of your comfort zone and put networking into action. Below are some quick tips to get you started.

  • Get your LinkedIn account ready
  • Ask for recommendations from previous/current colleagues via LinkedIn
  • Invite alumni for coffee chat
  • Talk to professors/staff about your career vision and ambition
  • Attend career fairs with adequate preparation 
  • Get a major related internship in the country you are studying at

As Louis Pasteur said, "chance favors only the prepared mind." I wish everyone good luck on the journey of job hunting.

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Creative by nature and analytical by training, Ruying is an aspiring marketer with determination to thrive in marketing industry. She loves life and enjoys painting, running as well as cooking.

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