Sodexo USA Careers
April 2013, Issue 34
Your View into a World Leader of Quality of Life Services
Guiding Steps to Your Career: Summer Jobs for College Students
By Trish Freshwater, Senior Communications Manager

The following is an abridged version of an article originally published on the Student Branding Blog, where students can find a wealth of information about preparing for their future career. Click here to read the article in its entirety.

When I was in college, the word "networking" literally filled me with anxiety. The idea of introducing myself to complete strangers was incredibly intimidating to my then very shy nature. But I had it all wrong.

For starters, networking is about more than meeting that "one" person who will open doors for you. Networking is about meeting new people with shared interests and building relationships that may become mutually beneficial. While your end goal may be to connect with professionals who have the inside scoop on job openings and other opportunities, networking is also about how you can help others.

But before you even begin, you need to have a plan for why you want to network and how you will approach networking – either in person or online. No matter when, where or how you want to network, there are five basic concepts you want to remember.

  1. Have an Elevator Pitch
    When you first meet someone, you need to have a short, concise statement that adequately introduces you, including your name, current status (i.e., college student or job title), professional interests and future ambition, along with a funny or interesting quip to help make you memorable. For more details on how to write your elevator pitch, read this.
  2. Smile! Shake Hands. Look People in the Eye.
    When you're in a face-to-face networking scenario, it's extremely important to remember that most people will formulate an opinion about you in the first 30 seconds. So, put on a big, natural smile and use a firm handshake. And, don't forget to look people in the eyes to show your sincerity. Your body language will convey far more than the words you speak.
  3. Build Your Network
    Building your network takes time. Start with professional student organizations on campus and your professors. Next, consider chamber of commerce meetings, volunteer organizations where you donate your time, church and other community organizations, friends of your parents and other relatives. Once you start to meet people through those you already know, your network will begin to snowball.
  4. Engage/Maintain Your Relationships
    Meeting people and connecting online is only the first step. Once you've made a connection, you need to support that connection by interacting online through Twitter or LinkedIn Groups, or even scheduling an occasional lunch or coffee break meeting to talk about topics in your industry. The key is to engage with your contacts and interact on a semi-regular basis, rather than just build an old-fashioned rolodex of names.
  5. Be Generous, Be Valuable
    More important than any other aspect of networking is the manner in which you reciprocate or give back to those in your network. In fact, giving of your time without expecting something in return is an amazing way to build your network. Find out what is important to members of your network and offer to help whenever possible – either with brainstorming ideas or getting involved in their causes.

Networking doesn't have to be scary or intimidating. In fact, it's much like making new friends – you introduce yourself and establish common interests. Then, you work together to meet common goals. Networking can be an amazing opportunity to develop mentoring relationships or meet a future boss. So, hold your head up high and put your best foot forward. You've got this.

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Editor: Trish Freshwater,
Senior Communications Manager