Katie Mantooth, career counselor at the Auburn University Career Center, said students should start building professional contacts as early as possible.
“Start early,” she said. “You’re competing against a lot of other highly motivated students.”
Meaghan Weir, student employment coordinator, recommends students start networking through professors, family and friends.
“Professors often keep in touch with alumni,” she said. “There’s a much better chance that they’ll have accurate and current contact information than what you might find on your own.”
When looking to meet a specific person, Weir recommends trying to find a mutual contact and asking for an introduction.
“Make it easy for the other person,” Weir said. “Set up a time and make it convenient. Make sure you’re not wasting their valuable time.”
She suggests not directly asking for a job.
“Ask for advice rather than a job,” she said. “Have a few questions ready. Really try and build a relationship.”
Weir said it’s important to make the relationship mutually beneficial.
“Don’t make it one-sided,” she said. “Find out what you can do for the contact as well.”
When attending a networking event where it is not appropriate to hand out resumes, business cards are a good way to provide contact information, Weir said.
“Keep the information on business cards brief,” she said. “Just put general contact information and maybe a link to your social media site.”
Weir said she’s seen some students put QR codes on their business cards to make it more convenient for employers to access their information and resume.
She added that LinkedIn is probably the “most valuable professional networking tool” available online, but employers have also started using social media to vet potential employees.
Mantooth said students should always be mindful of what they post on Facebook and how they present themselves.
“You’re always networking,” she said. “Who you are in college matters. Your actions today can affect your network later.”
Weir said existing relationships are vital when it comes to getting hired.
“If you’ve built these relationships, you won’t be a new face,” Weir said. “You’ll matter to the employer.”
If employers have gotten to know a person, they won’t feel as if they’re taking a risk in hiring him or her, Weir said.
A Tools for Tigers workshop will be held April 16 to help students and recent graduates with networking, job searching, interview skills, business etiquette and resume and cover letter writing. More information can be found at auburn.edu/career.