October 6, 2017

How To Land A Job When in College

University Career Centers are offering a wide range of innovative programs to help students land their first job or internship. Being in India the last 6 years, I have read about these inspiring programs from abroad. Finally, recently, I was able to attend on the University of Utah Campus hosted by the Career and Professional Development Center.  

Networking Sucks: But You Don’t Have To! 
Building the confidence of students to get out, make small talk and introduce themselves to employers at job fairs was the focus and main goal of this two hour session. And, it was executed brilliantly. 


The food section! I forgot to mention- hummus!!
Coming from a background of corporate training, I was impressed by the instructional design of the program- everything from the information sharing to small talk interaction to mock employer meetings was amazing. But, more than that, since it was a college event, the free food, which is a staple of such events was integrated in a way that was natural to the professional meet and greet scenario. Pizza was not part of the menu, but more ‘grown up’ foods such as antipasti, quinoa salad, wraps and mocktails. They even set up the mocktail section like a bar where students could order their mocktail, and the staff made it fresh with fruits, juices and sodas. While I feel the mocktails were a hit, I feel the college students were not yet ready for the grown-up foods because I feel they were barely touched. But, this is a good context building experience for them to understand what kind of foods would be served at professional networking sessions. And, it’s rarely pizza! 

Making Small Talk 
The room was set up with several tables with topics like “Football and Soccer,” “Game of Thrones” and a few others I can’t remember. I actually ended up sitting at the “Football and Soccer” table in hopes of challenging myself to talk about a topic I knew nothing about (knowing how difficult this is for most of the people I have worked with in the past, I can relate). It turned out that the few other international students and domestic students who decided to sit here at this table also had no clue about [American] football, though some did know about [international football] soccer. Though we briefly talked about that, we talked about a range of other related topics. I feel the Game of Thrones table had a lively conversation about the actual topic, though I did not visit that table. 

Myths of Networking 
After 30 minutes of small talk, the facilitators shared information with us on the myths of networking and tips to introduce ourselves to potential employers. This section was lecture heavy, but short, sweet and to the point. 

Some of they myths discussed include: 
  • The purpose of networking is to get a job
  • Networking only takes place in professional settings
  • People who network are extroverts
  • Networking is awkward and unnatural 
While most of us in the audience agreed that networking felt unnatural, when we started to think of it more as a conversation, some of us eased up.

I would like to add a myth that may have been discussed, but maybe not directly: Networking is not always a one time event.

In my experience, since networking is nothing but creating, building and nurturing relationships over a period of time, networking with anyone can be looked at as being on a continuum. Just like some friendships, they can go on steady for many years or, in other cases, go on for a time, go on a break, and start back up sometime in the future. I guess this comes more from experience, networking over a long period of time (a few decades, in my case). 

Initiating Conversation with Recruiters 
The facilitators shared a script on how to introduce ourselves to recruiters at job fairs. While they said, this is a helpful guide, they did stress not to stick strictly to the script, but to practice and personalize it to one’s conversational style and situation. This all comes with a lot of practice, of course. So, in this part of the session, the facilitators had the participants download the career fair app that listed the employers for upcoming career fairs on campus to research a few employers. The six tables that were used for small talk topics were converted into ‘employer tables.’ Students crafted their introductions and practiced them with student volunteers who role played the employer. I felt the student volunteers that I had the pleasure to interact with were very insightful and skilled in these interactions and gave some good tips and advice to the students practicing the mock recruiter interactions.

I attended this event as a community partner/volunteer. It was really fun and enlightening to interact with such ambitious students. I hope to get more chances to participate in such programs in the near future. May all the students who had the chance to participate in this event have much success! 

Related Posts: 
Three tips to Americanize your resume
15 Out of the Box Networking Strategies 
How to switch from small talk to professional discussions 
Sports Idioms that can be used in business conversations 

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