By: Mary Rosage, Assistant Director, UCS
“85% of all jobs are filled through networking”, according to a recent LinkedIn survey. Although this number includes jobs that run from entry-level all the way to management roles, it still shows how important networking is in your job or internship search! College might be the first time you’ve ever heard the word “networking”. Some students naturally feel uneasy about it because there is a lot of misinformation out there about networking that is more of a turnoff than a convincing argument to try it. Good news: most of these are myths!
A student I worked with earlier this year described her apprehension with networking in a way that I’ve heard other UNC students talk about it but she decided to take a leap of faith and try it out. So what better way to share with you her experience than to let her tell you herself? Sarah Svehla (UNC ‘16, Public Policy and Political Science) attended UCS’s “Careers in NonProfits & NGO’s Industry Night” when she was on the job search and we talked about her experience afterwards:
Mary: How did you feel about networking before you did it?
Sarah: I was extremely nervous about networking! Walking up to a stranger and starting a conversation about his/her work was not something that I was comfortable doing at all. I was also under the assumption that networking was essentially asking these employers for jobs (it isn’t), which I wasn’t a fan of. I just found the whole concept of networking to be a bit odd and a little pushy.
Mary: What convinced you to try it out?
Sara: Mary convinced me to try it out! She corrected my assumption that networking is basically asking for a job. Networking is about having conversations with people who are doing the work that you find interesting; they can tell you what their day is like and why they enjoy their work. Getting this information directly from someone who is actually in the field is a lot more helpful than reading something online.
Mary: Tell me about what it was like to attend the event. What did you learn about networking? What did you learn about yourself?
Sarah: Attending the event was a lot different than I thought it would be. I wrongly assumed that there wouldn’t be a lot of students there, so it’d just be me walking around talking to a few people with everyone else staring at me. Instead, there were a lot of students there which helped to take some of the pressure off. Employers were having conversations with multiple students at a time, which was helpful because other students asked questions that I hadn’t thought of. I learned that networking is a lot easier than I thought it would be. It’s really just having a conversation with someone who is working in a field that you’re thinking about working in, there’s a lot to talk about!
Mary: What advice do you have for someone else who is hesitant to network?
Sarah: Everyone says this, but the employers really do want to be there and help you! Don’t go in with the idea that they don’t want to waste time talking to a bunch of college students, if this were true they wouldn’t show up. I’d also encourage people to do a bit of research beforehand. Look up the organizations that are going to be represented, find out who you want to talk to, and get a general idea of what their company is about. You’ll be more prepared and you’ll feel a bit more confident walking into the room. Also, being nervous is completely fine, once you start talking with people, the nerves will go away. Finally, remember that networking isn’t about getting a job, it’s about having conversations. The stakes are pretty low.
Sarah is now Research Assistant at Real Facts NC in Raleigh. Know how she heard about the job? A former co-worker from an internship, or what we’d call a form of networking.
So are you ready to give it a try? Check out our list of events here, take a chance and network away! Remember that us career advisors are here to help you prepare for a networking experience to make it work for you the way we did with Sarah.