Networking Tips

Why is networking in the work environment such a big deal? According to one Education at Work student success ambassador, it doesn’t have to be – and it can change one’s entire career path.

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Students at EAW get a unique opportunity to network among fellow university peers as well as professional staff (including the president of the company). To network is to socialize, typically in a professional setting with the goal of developing a career path.

Naheyla Madina is a junior at the University of Utah, studying architecture as a way to combine her love for art while strategically choosing a high-paying career path. But this wasn’t always the case for her. Naheyla originally started her college career with the intention of earning a degree in biology.

“It was more sort of, something I was doing out of expectation,” Naheyla says. “In training class was this guy named Dante, who was an architecture major, and he was one of the people in my close group of friends within that training class, and he just kind of got me into it because he was doing this insane homework that required a creative mindset over just memorizing stuff, and I thought, ‘Why aren’t I doing that?’ I just dropped everything and I started going into architecture.”

The physical and online interactions students have available to them makes the workplace unlike any other, and EAW’s student success ambassadors have their top tips for networking in a professional environment.

The biggest tip of all: develop social media networks as well as in-person ones.

Peter Sullivan, an EAW student success ambassador for over two years, is a marketing student at the University of Utah, who credits his networking opportunities to his savvy use of his online platforms.

“Make sure those social networking platforms are all up-to-date,” Peter says, “make sure your LinkedIn, your Handshake accounts are up-to-date, those are the two biggest professional platforms you should have.”

Andrew “Drew” Vanhoff has been a student success ambassador in Arizona for over a year while attending school at Arizona State University. He says maintaining a professional profile on social media and in-person is the key to opening up as many networking opportunities as possible.

“It’s all about how you display yourself,” Drew says. “If you want to have that professional display, it’s important to have that through all your social accounts because that’s going to be a lot of people’s first impression of you.”

Drew says online platforms have helped him in networking outside of the EAW center.

“On LinkedIn, always accept everyone,” he says. “You may not have a connection now, but it definitely opens up the opportunities for connections you can make in the future.”

Peter also recommends utilizing campus-career centers to start the networking process for university students.

“Definitely take advantage of your career resource center,” he says. “Definitely utilize that, there’s no reason to go out and rebuild the wheel, in the sense of, you shouldn’t have to go out there and try to look for job the hard way. You’re at school to cultivate your network and to succeed in that field.”

But in-person networking isn’t as easy to develop for all students as it may seem for others. Sometimes talking to others can be nerve-wracking, so these student ambassadors recommend ice breakers and topics to start with when meeting new people.

Mohammad “Moe” Khezrian has been an ASU/EAW student ambassador for over a year, and says he typically talks to his coworkers in the breakroom of the EAW Tempe Center.

“When you try talking to people, you have to break the ice,” Moe says. “Start with talking to your co-workers over a cup of coffee.”

After you’ve “broken the ice,” University of Utah’s Edward “Eddie” Tang says one of the goals of networking is to get to know the person you’re talking with. Eddie’s go-to questions for getting to know people are: “Who are you?” “Where are you from?” and “Why are you doing what you’re doing?”

Eddie has his own networking success story. After networking with not only his peers and co-workers, but also his supervisors and leadership team, Eddie was able to get promoted to his current student ambassador position.

“I was really friends with my supervisor,” Eddie says. “I don’t think a lot of people think of supervisors like that. They think a supervisor is just a supervisor, and that’s it. And then before I applied to the position, I had him read over my resume, and of course, the people who were hiring at the time asked his opinion of me. So, obviously he put in a good word.”

EAW’s student success team doesn’t just talk about the significance of networking in the professional world, they draw from their own experiences and success to encourage others. The biggest tip the team can give to students? Don’t be afraid to talk to people.

“Make a plan,” Naheyla says. “Write your goals down and make sure to include people in them.”

COVID Impact on Contact Centers

It’s been an entire year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, disrupting the way employees and companies work for potentially years to come.

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Many industries have been directly impacted by COVID-19. One of those industries effected is the BPO industry. When you think of contact centers, you imagine a multitude of people in an office taking calls all day. How could this environment thrive in the midst of a pandemic? With contact centers being the backbone of customer service, you’d be surprised to find that through turmoil and quick changes, this industry has actually come to thrive. Here’s how COVID-19 has made an impact:

When things began to shut down in March, it felt as if human connection had diminished. Contact centers revolve around connection to give you the best customer support experience possible. At the beginning of the shutdown, that connection was lost. According to an article by Wharton Magazine, a magazine focusing on networking and connections for students, a young man who desperately needed customer support after his credit card got stolen, found himself on hold for 8 hours, with no human contact.

As COVID progressed, the contact center industry began to adapt. The challenge was immense. How do you transfer all of these employees from large BPOs to their homes? Access to technology, efficient training and accessible communication. In March, at the brink of the pandemic, Education at Work was able to shift their student employees and professional staff to a work-from-home platform and make employee safety a priority.

Besides the fact that contact center employees are working from their homes, the industry has been impacted in a multitude of ways. According to Simply Contact, the number of calls will continue to increase during these unprecedented times. With the increase of stress in all areas of life, customers will be more reliant on contact centers to get them the help they need. There’s less and less in-person contact as this pandemic continues, which increases the need to contact customer service virtually, which leads to an increase in calls. With another lockdown in question, it’s easy to imagine that the call center industry will continue to be impacted in a multitude of ways, especially with the work from home platform.

There is now proof that at-home work is effective, according to the Harvard Business Review. They found during their study on working-at-home amidst this pandemic, that we are spending 12% less time drawn into large meetings and 9% more time interacting with customers and external partners. The physicality of having a center full of agents may not come back into play. We could see a shift where some employees work from home, and some in a center. According to Gartner Research, “pre-outbreak, nearly 7 in 10 (68%) customer service and support organizations worked from traditional call centers and less than 10% of staff worked from home. That is now flipped, going forward, 71% of contact centers will be remote.”

The industry has faced new challenges but it has also been positively affected. According

The main takeaway from the impact the virus has had on this industry is that even through adversity and challenges, this industry continues to thrive. BPOs have been able to send their employees home with the technology and tools for effective communication, there’s been an increased need for digital customer care, and there’s been positive outcomes in efficiency for the work-at-home platform. In the midst of a storm, contact centers have been able to readjust and reposition to continue to do what they do best, support customers in crisis when they need it most.

How EAW Helped Me Get to DC

Going to Washington, D.C. has always been my goal – ever since I enrolled into college. After working with Education at Work for over two years, I can say I made it happen.

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I made it to the nation’s capital as a health reporter under one of my school’s professional programs. In the middle of a pandemic and just in time for perhaps the biggest presidential election of my generation, I reported on stories – both breaking and enterprise – meant for Arizona audiences on a national platform.

Professional programs are mandatory at ASU’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications. There are over 20 programs a student can choose from, all based at the Cronkite school in Phoenix. All, expect for two: Cronkite News – LA Bureau, and Cronkite News – D.C.

If I had to do a professional program anyway, I was going to go to D.C. The problem was going to be whether I could afford it.

While the Cronkite school paid for plane tickets to and from the capital, transportation around the city and provided a $1,300 scholarship, it was not enough to cover the cost of living in one of the nation’s most expensive cities for four months by itself. That’s where EAW came in.

For the past two years, my tuition has been paid off in full with the added funds from EAW’s Tuition Assistance program. After earning approximately $7,000 in tuition assistance total, I was able to save and allocate extra money toward a saving’s account since my freshman year. On top of that, I earned an hourly wage which paid my bills in the meantime – and of course, I saved all the money I could.

In total, I landed in D.C. with $8,000 to spare for four months (and this was after I was able to pay for student housing in the city out of pocket – from wages alone).

Reporting in D.C. during the COVID-19 pandemic was strange, to say the least. Working as a health reporter during the COVID-19 pandemic was even stranger. But it was an unforgettable experience and one I may not have gotten without EAW.

Week one of reporting in D.C., Arizona surpassed 5,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19. At the same time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in partnership with the U.S. Health and Human Services department and Department of Defense ramped up Operation Warp Speed to get the vaccine into the arms of Americans as quickly and as safely as possible.

The next month, the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away while I was still in the newsroom. My team and I ran to the Supreme Court to cover the vigils, the memorials, and the weeping men and women who looked up to her. We had about a 14-hour day of working that day, getting home at about 2 a.m. and getting back up and out the next morning at 9 a.m.

In October, former Arizona Senator Martha McSally praised Supreme Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett in D.C. while I spoke back and forth with her staffer about possibly getting an interview (the answer was no), and President Donald Trump cited Arizona during the first presidential debate – a citation that I needed to fact-check from my apartment that night, across the street from the Supreme Court.

And finally, in November, I helped my team cover Arizona turning blue for the first time since 1996, electing Senator Mark Kelly, and playing a key role in President-elect Joe Biden’s bid for winning the election. We covered celebrations which erupted in D.C., while protests took place in Phoenix.

My experience in D.C. was unlike anything I can possibly compare it to or otherwise imagine. While I definitely worked hard to get there – even picking up a second job for a year, working to get promoted so earn higher wages, etc. – I still could not have reached that goal of mine without the help of both ASU’s Cronkite School and EAW’s tuition assistance program.

I understand that my circumstances were lucky, and I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve received and experienced. But ultimately, I believe, a little bit of help can go an extra-long way when it comes to meeting your goals.

How To Finish Your Senior Year

Graduation is just around the corner, and many students are wondering, well, what now? This time can be difficult for a lot of college students. The motivation dips because they often wonder, does this final year even matter?

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You’re so close to graduation, it can be hard to give yourself that final push. Your senior year is still immensely important, even if you try to convince yourself otherwise. You want to finish your senior year proud of your accomplishments; feeling like you came out at your best. Here are our three tips on how to finish your senior year strong.


1. Stay organized

This can feel like a messy time in life. You’re balancing work, school and a social life all at once, and all of those things are equally important to you. Often times school gets put on the backburner, but with organizational skills you can maintain your motivation to do your school work! Make sure you keep a planner that details all of the work you need to get done as well as a calendar to make sure alongside work and a social life, you’re still making time for school!


2. Let your future motivate you

Push hard now so that future you can reap the rewards. Imagine what your goals are for yourself, your well-being, your future career, and more. Let that motivation guide and push you during your final year of school. Coming out of school knowing you tried your hardest will emphasize the importance of motivation and that feeling will continue with you post-graduation. If you let your inspiration to work hard fizzle out, you’re setting yourself up for not accomplishing future goals. Push yourself now and for forever!


3. Remember why you’re in school

You took all of this time and energy to earn good grades in high school, apply for colleges, and work hard all these years, why stop now? Reflect on all the energy and passion you had to get where you are now. You don’t want that passion to diminish. Spark your passion and reinvigorate your love for learning and gaining skills! Just because it’s your senior year doesn’t mean there isn’t more to learn. Your skillset is forever growing, use this time to your advantage!


4. Reward yourself

You should be proud of yourself for getting this far! Attending university is no easy feat. If you continue to push yourself and work your hardest during your senior year, you deserve to reward yourself for all of your hard work. Think of what you want your reward to be, a gift for yourself, a mini-vacation, or a trip to your favorite restaurant, and let that future reward motivate you! You’ve earned it.