Networking skills, resources benefit college students now, later

by Kelly Newburg

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – College students can further their current and future goals by tapping into connections and networking opportunities available to them -- from formal sources to those hiding in plain sight.

Naturally, career advising offices provide a variety of expertise in this area. Working with career advisers is a way for students to learn how to expand their web of contacts within fields of interest, locations and levels of experience.

“Career Services educates students on the importance of networking through teaching important professional development skills and discussing how to expand their network," said Jeff Garis, senior director of Penn State Career Services. "We drill down to students the importance of developing a LinkedIn presence online and joining specialized groups within it. We also encourage students to look at their personal network to see how it can be expanded. Look into family members, friends and friends of friends.”

Career Services also provides students with access to a variety of resources such as the Nittany Lion Career Network. It is the primary online resource for linking students with employers through services including job postings, leads and prospects, information sessions, career fairs, eCredentials and job/company verification disclaimers.

Maintaining relationships with past and current employers also can be beneficial, especially with supportive supervisors eager to help their employees succeed.

“Networking and building connections within my part-time position in the Paterno Library Interlibrary Loan department has been very helpful for me,” said Sam Kurtz, a senior rehabilitation and human services major from Pleasant Gap, Pa. “I got my first job fall semester of my sophomore year and by the following summer I already had a second job in a different department of the library. My supervisor continues to send student employees any job openings she sees in different departments as well as available scholarships within the library I wouldn’t otherwise be aware of.”

An underutilized career resource among college students is other students. Peers can be a valuable source of information and assistance during college and in the future.

“As an underclassman, I’ve learned the importance of making connections and networking with upperclassmen within my major and throughout campus,” said Carolyn Harpster, a sophomore public relations major from State College, Pa. “Connecting with students is a valuable resource when it comes to finding jobs and internships and gaining leadership positions within organizations on campus. Aside from hard work and dedication, I believe the connections I’ve made with other students on campus have been one of the largest contributors to the success I’ve had in my first two years at Penn State.”

Likewise, reaching out to and creating connections with Penn State alumni can result in excellent resources for students.

“It is my suggestion to get to know a Penn Stater in the field you want to participate in,” said Logan Cawley, the 2012-2013 Lion Ambassadors president. “Penn Staters are everywhere, and once you’ve completed your degree they want to hire you! I have talked with several Penn State alumni, and they all say the same thing: ‘If I hire a Penn State graduate, I can be certain that they will apply themselves 110 percent, and that the education they received was worthwhile.’ ”

Students have access to alumni from around the world through resources such as LionLink, a professional networking program that links Penn State students and alumni with alumni volunteer Career Coaches. In addition, a $15 student membership in the Blue and White Society, the student contingent of the largest dues-paying alumni association in the world, offers access to the online, searchable directory of more than 557,000 alumni worldwide.

Taking advantage of these resources can help students solidify strong professional connections while opening numerous opportunities for the future.

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Last Updated June 25, 2012