Networking is by far one of the most crucial tools that students need in order to succeed in the business world. The ability to quickly establish relationships with professionals is a skill that must be acquired before graduation.
“I am very shy when I go into a room with a bunch of professionals. I don’t know how to start up a conversation and get their business card. My hands get sweaty and I always tense up,” said Brooke Lupo, 20, junior at Rutgers University.
Robert Scott, a specialist professor in Communication at the University, believes that effective networking skills are vital for current students and recent graduates. Strong networking abilities can help open doors for possible internships and future employment.
“The majority of success stories I hear from recent Monmouth graduates often involve relationships established during their internships. Maintaining relationships with professors, alumni, professionals, and classmates will help keep an individual informed and may lead to possible employment,” said Scott.
Students who reach out to potential clients and colleagues over email should always make sure they are using proper grammar. Students who don’t double check their punctuation, capital letters, and rules of grammar might not be taken seriously, he said.
Networking is one of the most essential tools students must master before graduating. Most students are used to doing everything on the computer and forget that they need to communicate in the job world. It is so easy to email and text that striking up a conversation with a stranger seems almost unnatural, said Lupo.
Robin Farber, a social worker in Westfield, NJ, said that networking opportunities will help you practice the skills needed to overcome shyness and sell yourself to these potential employers. Eventually, you will see that practicing networking opportunities in small incremental steps will help build your confidence until it becomes more natural.
“Instead of resorting to an email communication, drop by the professor’s office during his or her hours with a benign question or a comment about the lecture. Sitting in the front of the classroom and introducing yourself and greeting the professor on an ongoing basis will help them to be more familiar to you as well,” said Farber.
Kristine Simoes, Director of the Public Relations and Journalism program at the University, said that when students are networking, they should always show that they know something about the company the professional is coming from. Let them know that you took the time to research them. Strike up an intelligent conversation that shows your ability to think on your feet.
“Students should want to be remembered. Personality and strength doesn’t come across in emails. Show initiative and ask questions when talking to a professional,” said Simoes.
Scott said that students might be reluctant to interview in-person because they lack confidence and experience, teamed with a fear of the unknown. Phone interviews are becoming a popular tool for weeding out a large number of applicants prior to coordinating a more manageable number for face-to-face interviews. Regardless of evolving trends in the hiring process, students will need to effectively market themselves both ways.
“Students need to care about networking if they have any desire to be successful. Most fields require some degree of networking in order for individuals to stay informed, become aware of new opportunities, and grow in their positions,” said Scott, the media professor.
Kayla Nennecke, a 21-year-old intern at Fox News in New York, said that in order to get an internship one must get over the fear of communicating with a professional in person. Students come in constantly, looking for an internship when they don’t have the ability to make eye contact or leave with a firm handshake.
“Networking skills are fundamental in getting a job. Show that you are determined and ask a lot of questions. I’ve seen people get hired on the spot for asking informative questions that show they have a strong interest in the field,” said Nennecke.
According to Simoes, every student should have an elevator speech prepared at all times. An elevator speech introduces yourself and touches upon your skills and qualifications in 30 seconds or less.
“Always make sure to have great eye contact and be able to throw your hand out for a nice firm handshake. Put your cell phone away before presenting yourself,” said Simoes.
Stacy Jaffee, Health Studies major, said that while students are on-campus they are somewhat forced to socialize, which can enhance networking skills. However, there is more to networking than just knowing how to mingle.
“Monmouth University requires students to take public speaking as well as critical discourse which allow students to develop strong speaking and conversational skills. Without these courses a student might feel useless when it comes to networking,” said Jaffee.
PHOTO COURTESY of Jenna Intersimone