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The Power of a Network

By Ethan Selinger, Northeastern University

In today’s globalized world, it easy to connect with others, both in-person and online. The ability to create and maintain a professional network, both in-person and online, is vital to professional development and discovering job opportunities. As a career services professional, I believe it is essential that we educate our students on successfully building and utilizing a professional network.

Through my own teaching on the subject, I have found that many students still believe that searching on job boards and applying through company websites is the best method to finding a position. While utilizing a college’s job board and strategically applying online can be useful (especially for finding internships and co-ops), building a professional network can make finding a full-time job (and co-op and internship) much easier.

There are a variety of networking opportunities that are beneficial for students to take advantage of. These include:

  1. Informational Interviews- In my opinion, informational interviews are under utilized by students. I find myself encouraging students more often than not to try setting up and carrying out informational interviews with employers, students with experience in the professional world, etc. Informational interviews are an excellent tool for students to build their network while simultaneously learning more about a company, position, etc. As I tell my students, “people love to talk about themselves.”
  2. LinkedIn- LinkedIn, the professional online networking site, has a variety of available tools and functions that allow people to effectively build a network, especially for students. LinkedIn provides various capabilities that make networking easy for students. For example, searching an institution’s LinkedIn page allows students to filter alumni by their place of employment. If a student is interested in a particular company, finding potential alumni contacts provides an excellent blueprint for creating a new contact(s) in that company, and possibly setting up an informational interview/learning more about opportunities. Furthermore, recruiters do use LinkedIn to find potential candidates. LinkedIn has become a key component of my co-op prep courses, as setting up an engaging, informative profile is vital to both networking and job searching.
  3. Conferences- Being in Boston, I often encourage my students to lookout for potential conference opportunities. Being able to learn and meet potential contacts in their professional field can be vital to both professional development and networking.

These are some brief examples I use to help my students think about and build their professional networks. College members, how do you help your students develop their professional networks? Employer members, how do you encourage students to build their networks?

Ethan Selinger is currently a Cooperative Education (Co-op) Advisor at Northeastern University’s College of Computer and Information Science.

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