Make the Most of Summer Socializing
It's a great time to meet new people and connect with those you haven't seen in a while. Take advantage of these opportunities to get information and build relationships that will help you when you're ready to launch your career.
What is Networking?
On the casual end of the networking spectrum, you can have light conversations with people for the purpose of clarifying or reaching your professional goals. You can network informally by asking people in social conversations what kind of work they do, who they work for, if they like their job or their company, how they got started in their career, and other kinds of casual questions. If networking is new to you, or if you don't have a specific career goal in mind, this kind of networking can help you learn "what's out there" and may help you identify a career field you'd like to explore more in depth, or an organization you might like to work for (or avoid!).
If you've got specific career goals in mind, identify people (see below) who might have information about your career objective, and ask more direct questions to get information and helpful advice. For example, let's say you're interested in going to law school after graduation. As you interact with people at work or in social situations, you may meet people who have been to law school, or are in the process of applying to law school themselves. Tell these people you are thinking of applying to law school too, and ask them if they would be willing to answer some questions about it. Most people will be glad to help and will be flattered to be asked for advice.
Informational interviewing is a more formal version of networking. When you identify someone who does what you would like to do, ask him/her if you can arrange a 20-30 minute appointment to get their advice about how to break into the career field or company. Use this networking technique when you are fairly clear about your career fields, and have already conducted some research about your targeted occupation.
Who to Network With
Many students dismiss networking as a viable strategy because they believe they don't know anyone who can help them. Begin by identifying people you already know who are outside your immediate family and circle of friends. This can include:
- Roommates and neighbors
- Faculty and GSIs
- Current and former co-workers
- Former teachers, mentors or advisors
- Acquaintances in your activity groups or faith-based organizations
- Aunts, uncles, cousins and other distant relatives you don't see every day
Start with this group of people and ask for referrals to other people who might know something about your targeted career field. Ask person A if they would be willing to introduce you to person B, or ask person A if it's okay for you to contact person B directly. Person B may or may not have the information you're looking for, and if not, ask him/her if they could recommend someone else you could speak with. Continue to expand your network in this way until you find someone who is knowledgeable and can give you good advice.
Another great source of people to network with is the vast amount of Cal alumni out there in the real world. Utilize the @cal Career Network to find Cal alums who work in the field or industry you are targeting. Send them an email or give them a call to ask for advice or to arrange an informational interview.
Do it Now
In another couple of months, the recruiting/application season will be in full swing and you'll be up to your ears in class assignments and other demands on your time. Take advantage of the more relaxed pace the summer offers to gain the information and contacts that will make you a stronger, more focused, and better informed applicant.