If only networking were as simple in the professional world as it was in high school. As teenagers, all anyone had to do was join a club or team to become friends with a group that shared a common interest or skill. In academic and professional environments, it takes a little more work than that.
During my first year of school, I was not particularly active in anything outside of academics and one club sport. This pattern changed during the summer after my sophomore year. Through Schuler, I earned the chance to complete two internships through The Philadelphia Center. During one of TPC’s seminars, our speaker talked about the importance of finding internships and networking with professionals early on in college. As a result, most of the class created LinkedIn profiles, and as soon as I was back on my college campus, I scheduled a meeting with its Career and Development Center. Before that meeting, I didn’t realize how easy it is to find internship opportunities; all I had to do was use my school’s internship database and send out my resume to potential employers.
Once in a work setting, the potential for networking was even greater. I became a student worker at the Minnesota Department of Health and the social media manager for A Woman’s Paris, an online magazine. Each space offered different, useful resources. I learned how public health works on a government level as well as what makes for effective social media marketing. Whether networking occurred just by interacting with the same people multiple times a week or going to contributor dinners, I met people who can offer professional and academic advice, write letters of recommendation, and refer me to others that I may want to work with. All this began with one meeting in a place made available to students in colleges throughout the country.
The importance of networking was also made clear at the Schuler Summer Reunion, one of our most recent events. There, Marcy Twete, CEO and Founder of Career Girl Network, gave a talk about the how tos and benefits of social media and networking. One of the important points in her presentation was what to do (and what not to do) on the various social media sites out there. Whether using analogies for each network or giving examples of how she approaches interviewing as a CEO, by the end of her PowerPoint, Marcy showed the undeniable impact of social media and networking on a person’s career. Especially important was realizing that your social media accounts are only as helpful or detrimental to your professional career as you make them.
The greatest takeaway of these experiences is the importance of starting to network early. Whether this means going through entire Facebook histories to delete that one questionable photo or getting rid of an angry Tweet, having a positive online presence can have incredible benefits. Once this is accomplished and you get an interview, it only gets easier from there. So why not start right now?
Melissa Larson graduated from Round Lake High School in 2010 and is a member of the Macalester College Class of 2014. She is an International Studies major with minors in Japanese and English and a concentration in Global and Community Health.
Melissa worked as an intern for the Schuler Scholar Program in the summer of 2013. Her responsibilities included developing communication initiatives on Facebook and LinkedIn to strengthen the SSP network. To learn more about Melissa, visit her LinkedIn profile.