Networking for Beginners

“This is a great networking opportunity.”

This phrase has followed me throughout my four years at Penn State, especially as a Smeal student. It incidentally was also one of the reasons why I chose Penn State over other college choices. It is no mystery that Penn State has one of the biggest networks in the world. From alumni to employers who know Penn State’s reputation and now YOU and me, we all make up a huge network. Being a part of something this big is great and there are millions of opportunities, but the big question still remains… “Where do I even begin?”.

Networking was one of the things that intimidated me the most my freshman year and something that still makes me a little nervous as a senior. However, I can confidently say that I am more confident going into networking situations now than I was four years ago. One of the greatest pieces of advice I received about networking was from my uncle, a former Penn Stater and drum major. He told me that you never know when the person you’re talking to may be beneficial to your success in the future. That piece of advice has always stuck with me. So, for anyone who is just beginning their career at Penn State or even to those nearing graduation, always be mindful of your surroundings. The person who sits next to you in class may one day be the CEO of a multi-million-dollar corporation or your parent’s “friend from college” may one day be looking for interns. Always remember that Penn Staters love to help fellow Penn Staters. Networking doesn’t stop at career events. Most of the networking I have done at Penn State has happened outside of the confines of a company’s networking event. Aside from being mindful about making connections you also should put yourself out there. Freshman and Sophomore year is prime time for making connections and networking. Employers love to see interest in their companies and would love to have conversations with young students who are already thinking ahead. Just because a company only hires upperclassman doesn’t mean you can’t ask questions and listen. Companies will remember you. I have heard so many stories about students who made connections with recruiters early in their college career and then when they were eligible to apply for internships and full-time positions the connection was already made and they were one step closer to getting the job. Linkedin is also a great place to make connections, especially as an underclassman. Speakers are constantly attending classes and speaking about their experience in the job field. Just because you didn’t ask a question doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to connect. Reach out to speakers through Linkedin after the seminar and thank them for their time and the information they gave you. A short 300-word message goes a long way.

It is never too late to start networking. It may seem a little intimidating at first, but over time it will become more comfortable and it will become second nature. As much as you put in to networking is as much as you get out. Everyone else is looking to network too, so make their next connection be with you!

By Riley McConnell
Riley McConnell