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.”