By Solomon McKenzie 21’
If I had to pick a phrase that has stuck with me for my entire life it would be “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. It’s what my aunt told me after helping me receive an internship with a research company and it’s what my school mentor said after his reference contributed to getting an interview for my first job after receiving my bachelor’s degree. Through years of networking, I’ve learned that no one is solely responsible for their successes and often times it takes a collective effort to achieve your career oriented goals by being introduced to new professional opportunities.
Networking is perhaps one of the most important aspects of college, and unfortunately, it’s a skill that isn’t taught in the classroom. It’s a crucial tool for professional growth in that it serves as the primary method through which people find jobs, with an estimated 80% of employment opportunities derived from some form of networking or mutual source (this could be through friendships, professional relationships or even LinkedIn).
The large majority of my personal experience in networking comes from learning through a series of trial and error, which is why I can give you a few solid tips to strengthening your network. The first rule of networking is persistence, persistence, persistence. For every professional connection I’ve successfully made, I’ve reached out to five times that many people. At first being rejected (or not even receiving a reply) was anxiety inducing, but over time it became less daunting as I came to realize that one reply could be the beginning career changing opportunity.
Like any tool, maintaining your network is a crucial part of the process. Once you’ve established a relationship you should always keep in touch. I’ve found that it really pays off to update specific people or groups about your latest achievements and professional goals. Not only does this keep you at the front of everyone’s mind (incase an opportunity arises) but it’s a great way to share your evolving career ambitions.
This video demonstrates that it’s never too early to start forming these relationships by perfectly breaking down the art of networking to its bare bones (pun intended).
If you find yourself asking where to start networking, the easiest way to get started making connections is by getting involved in campus activities. There are plenty of resources through which you can strengthen your resume, increase your professional online presence, and connect to potential employers and internship positions.
Solomon McKenzie is a 2nd year Community planning and design masters candidate at the College of Charleston. He’s currently finishing his architectural thesis project on an innovative mixed use low income housing complex.