A commonly undervalued aspect of the collegiate experience is the opportunity to build and establish a network for yourself. You may build and mold this network to fulfill your needs. Whether you wish to create a large network with ample career opportunities for yourself or to establish a healthy social network of colleagues and friends, your time in college provides you many opportunities to do so.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has added some unique challenges and opportunities for students to leverage themselves. Although students may find themselves off campus, it’s no excuse for not continuing to build your network and promote yourself.
Before we begin, let’s establish that the essential element to creating a network is diminishing any fear of socialization. Making your name known to those around you does require some social skills. Whether you are outgoing or an introvert, you possess the necessary abilities to establish a rich network, but you may have to step out of your comfort zone. You can participate in mock interviews, take public speaking courses, or volunteer to give presentations to audiences in order to improve upon these abilities.
While in college, try to challenge yourself by stepping out of your comfort zone. Becoming a student leader will provide you an immense opportunity to improve your social skills while continually building your network. As previously stated, you can build a network to your liking. Learning networking skills while in school will help you build your professional networks, which should lead to interviews and finding internship opportunities.
There is no set way to build a network for yourself, since your network may only become what you desire it to be. However, there are certain steps you can take to put yourself in a strong position to build and maintain a network that fits your needs. Here are a couple of tips to establish a network of current and potential professionals during your time in college.
Do not hesitate to get noticed.
Whether you decide to sit in the front of the class, if you are attending in-person classes, or actively participate in a virtual class, you can establish a professional relationship with your professors, and that will give you exposure to your peers, as well as other professors. Having a network of classmates is very beneficial. Group projects become less of a burden and give you opportunities to display leadership skills and develop project management strategies. This will give you a wide network of ambitious, similarly-minded individuals whom you may aid and have available to assist you with any issues, giving you valuable professional experience similar to that of a workplace.
Creating these relationships encourages engagement inside and outside of the classroom. This network enhances the college experience through help, fellowship, and potentially lasting friendships. This type of network will make the college experience more enjoyable and will last a lifetime. Networking is commonly perceived as getting to know those who are successful in their positions or have additional experiences that translate to real-life advice, but it is much more. Integrating aspiring professionals into your network is both a long- and short-term investment for them and yourself.
Even with online classes, you should still be able to actively participate. As you are listening and taking notes, write down questions you have and “raise your hand” however your class allows you. Though it may take a while, your professor should be able to notice your signal for a question. You can also utilize the chat feature of many virtual platforms. If you have written down your questions, you’ll be able to easily ask them when called upon.
Take full advantage of job fairs and “Meet the Firms” scheduled events.
Job fairs and Meet the Firms events are put together by your accounting department solely to assist you in networking with local firms who are interested in hiring accounting and/or finance majors. However, simply attending these events is not enough. You should take steps to be fully prepared by having a complete, up-to-date resume. Your university career resource center should be able to assist you in creating your resume or updating your existing one.
A successful resume is more than one that is filled with all the necessary information. Your resume should both directly and indirectly show employers your abilities and experience. It is helpful to have elements on your resume that can create meaningful conversation when shared with employers. It also serves as something they can refer back to upon return to their offices.
Have an eager and confident attitude when engaging with employers. This does not mean to act unlike yourself, but rather attempt to display qualities within yourself that fit the position and allow you to stand out in the minds of the employer. You should not approach these events with the plan to just get your name out there, but as an opportunity to create promising, long-lasting relationships with partners or staff of firms.
Many campuses are taking these events online, making them even easier to attend. Act as if these events are still in-person and be prepared just as you would be if you were meeting with these firms face to face. If you can, work out any technical issues beforehand through test runs to ensure there are no interruptions.
Get involved in campus clubs and/or other professional organizations.
Involvement in clubs and organizations does much more for your professional network than just boosting your resume. Activities in these organizations allow you to establish and maintain relationships with your university’s alumni, current faculty, and other student leaders. They also give you opportunities to work on team-building skills and, once again, allow you to immerse yourself in settings conducive to like-minded individuals.
It is highly recommended that you join your respective university’s Accounting Club or Beta Alpha Psi organization. These groups normally schedule and coordinate the college’s Meet the Firms events, and often have strong alumni networks. Communicating with these alumni can be very beneficial. Alumni can give you tips on how to be successful in your job search after graduation and provide insights about the industry so you may further uncover your own interests. Going into any given field or industry blindly can be risky, and being more informed may encourage you to consider all of your options.
If you commute to your college/university campus, it can be difficult to become motivated to join campus organizations. However, you should attempt to break that barrier if at all possible. With more activities moving to a virtual environment, the ability to attend accounting club or Beta Alpha Psi events should be less problematic. You should weigh the immediate benefits of belonging to these types of organizations, and the benefits should far outweigh whatever struggles you endure to participate. Participation in these organizations is a time commitment, no doubt. But the experiences, relationships established, and growth opportunities, both personally and professionally, add priceless value to all of the time and energy spent.
Your college experience is more than the academic rigor. Use these useful tips and insights on the importance of networking as a student to begin to build and ultimately expand your network. Step out of your comfort zone, build a network of professionals, and see where it will take you. The experiences you acquire, memories you create, and relationships you establish will have a significant impact on your life and career. College gives you a prime opportunity to do those things.
Another extremely beneficial career move is earning the CPA certification. The benefits of becoming a CPA include increased earning potential, career opportunities, job stability, career flexibility, and respect. To secure the CPA, you must pass the CPA Exam, and you can learn everything you need to know about the CPA Exam in this free CPA Exam Guide.