By Rebecca Lubecki
If there is a lesson that has hit me the hardest in the job search stage of life, it's the importance of networking. Yes, I've always known it's a given, it's important. But I always looked at it as a supplement to success, instead of the most important part of making it in my career.
In high school, my teachers and family talked to me about the importance of going to college. Simply finishing school isn't enough anymore, they said. You have to go to college, explore, find yourself and get a degree. You won't be able to find a job without a degree anymore these days, they said.
My first couple years of college, professors advised me that everyone is going to college. You have to set yourself apart even more by going into the job market already having experience. College education is simply the standard. Get internships, they said! Try to get one to two before you graduate, participate in extracurricular activities and that's how you get a job today. Simply having a bachelors just won't do the trick.
I thought I would go above and beyond, jam-packing four internships into my last three semesters of college. I won't struggle that much once I graduate, I thought. I did more than the standard. At least that's what people were telling me. Turns out I wasn't the only person with that mindset and my resume still was similar to everyone else's. So now I'M going to tell you that today this isn't enough.
Networking is the next big thing you need to make time for. Yes, that's even more work. You need to KNOW people on top of having all those experiences. So what does that mean?
Keep on the constant look out for opportunities to meet people. And you have to start that right away. It's actually the first step of the process, before internships even. These opportunities are everywhere, if you don't see them, you're not doing enough work and that's the harsh truth.
Start with your advisors and professors. Just talk to them about your interests and you want more information on how to get involved. BOOM. That simple. Then join clubs. Because there are plenty of people you meet with each meeting. Even if you only have the time to attend a few meetings, it still pushes you further ahead than by not joining at all.
There are also events on campus for you to listen to speakers on top of networking events such as Career Conference and Experience U. Keep an eye out for these and go! People work hard to put these together just to help you succeed. There are influential people all around you, so go out there and connect. Even if you see someone isn't working in a field related to what you want to do, they'll have some kind of beneficial insight for you, whether it's advice or they might be able to introduce you to someone with a job you want to pursue.
Other ways to network are finding opportunities to job shadow. Reach out to professionals and ask if you can hang out with them for a day to learn all about what they do and what you'll have to do to get in their shoes. People usually feel flattered when they hear you think what they do is so awesome and you want to be just like them.
Check in with Career Services time to time. We provide resources to help you do this — so now you know there are no excuses. Blugold Success Stories, for example, is made specifically for you to find alumni working directly in your field. We did all the hard work of finding people for you! All you have to do is take a look, request to contact and reach out.
If this isn't enough, there also are opportunities outside the university such as Young Professionals of the Chippewa Valley. You can join this group with a student discount and what they do is host networking events throughout Eau Claire where you can meet with other professionals and students.
There are probably many other networking opportunities I haven't discovered yet. All you have to do is ask around and research. Moral of the story is everyone you know is an opportunity. It's a just a matter of taking that extra initiative and knowing how to reach out to them.
Rebecca Lubecki graduated from UW-Eau Claire in December 2014. She currently works as an intern in UW-Eau Claire's Career Services office.