It has become cliché for us to say the “It’s all about who you know, and more importantly, who knows you!” tag line with students and graduates of UTSA. You have heard it – multiple times. It’s simple to say, but how do students and alumni actually do this? How do they work their way into conversations with people of influence in their fields? Here’s a few strategies that I have seen work along with a few examples:
- Use LinkedIn. Make sure your account is up-to-date, because that may influence whether or not the people you connect with turn you down or add you. Then look by searching for alumni in your field of interest, employers of interest, professional groups in your career area, and more… This is a dynamic tool that allows you to find commonalities you have with others (mutual contacts, mutual alma mater, etc.) to start your conversation – or find a way to be introduced. I have had students in my class who connected with an alumnus to ask them about their experience in a certain field, and the conversation developed into an invitation to intern or work! For example, one student in Communication was looking at PR firms in Los Angeles, and she found a connection. She was invited to intern with them for a summer. Who do you think they will hire (if she does a good job all summer) when they have a next opening?? Chances are that they have already invested in you so much, and they KNOW you (reference that old cliché), so you’re much less of a risk to the company.
- Find Professional Associations. These could be local, regional, national… That doesn’t matter so much, but find ways to join their meetings (a bonus for local organizations), conferences, and conversations. Many have student rates for current students, and many times, that opens doors to job postings, but even more importantly relationship building with professionals who are serious enough about their careers to be involved in city, regional, or national conversations.
- Ask for the opportunity to do an Informational Interview. This is just as simple as asking a professional in a career field of interest if you can meet and ask them questions about their career. Most people like talking about themselves! Ask questions like “What recommendations would you have for a student like me to prepare for this field?”; “What are your favorite parts of the job?”; “What are the aspects of your job that you dislike?”; “Who else in this field would you recommend I speak with?”; and “What is one unexpected aspect of your career path?” The class I teach does this same thing but for a grade. Every semester, there are multiple students who have incredible stories. One this past semester created a connection to the CEO of his favorite organization, another got multiple internship offers (just by talking!), and even another changed her career path of choice and made headway in the new direction.
- Use your University Career Center. Finally, when you’re stuck, come to us. Find a mentor, practice your networking, practice your interviewing, get good career data, connect with alumni and other leaders who can help you, and formulate your own personal strategy with some help.