Networking


Facebook. Twitter. Tumblr. WordPress. Foursquare.  These are all great social networking sites that many of us use on a daily basis. We use them to stay connected with our friends through posting pictures, status changes, and links. As college students, we have all been lectured constantly about the harm that the sites can do to our future. Certain posts and pictures could possibly harm your chances of getting a job or an interview. Over and over again we have been told to make sure our privacy settings are secure, be sure to have appropriate profile pictures, and to even “Google ourselves” and see what the results are. All this advice from professors and professionals warn about the disadvantages of social networking, but what about the advantages?

And then we have some, somewhat less familiar, sites: LinkedIn. Biznik. Ziggs. Upspring. Ryze. These social networking sites are for professional use. Essentially, they provide a way to socialize professionally. Now, let’s not assume that ‘professional’ means boring. These sites are anything but boring. They are all user-friendly and customizable like any other social networking site that you may be using. Their purpose, however, is where the real difference arises.

Professional networking sites allow the user to make connections that can influence their career or their business, or both. You can connect with people that you may have met at a meeting, you can look for job opportunities, raise interest in your product, or just search around to find people who are interested in your same type of business. Such sites come in handy especially for college juniors and seniors who are looking for employment and internships. Creating a profile on one or more of these sites allows employers to find you, but let’s not confuse them with job search sites. Finding opportunities is certainly a potential benefit, but there are many other sites that will serve you better as job search engines.

The purpose of professional social networking sites is to NETWORK – making and maintaining connections with other people. The possibilities are endless. These sites allow you to connect with friends, professors, and past employers; to establish bonds based on common experiences and interests. You can use these networking sites very effectively to build your professional image.

You may be thinking “I’m still in school. I don’t have any experience! I don’t have a professional image!” But wait, you may have more experience than you think. Professional networking sites are there, in part, to HELP you promote yourself and your skills. Think about the things you are good at and focus on those. Think about awards and honors you have achieved in your academic career and post those. You should also post past work experience, even if it is not directly related to your target career, because it will show that you have some initiative, some experience and perhaps even some unique skills.

At first glance, these business-oriented sites may seem a little intimidating, and you probably will think that you have no use for them just yet. But the truth is they are just as easy to use as any other social networking tool, but the benefits of using them can have a much bigger impact on your future!

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The choices you make in how you spend your time will shape how your college experience turns out. So join something! Whether it be a club, an organization, Greek Life, or a sports team, it will give you the opportunity to meet new people, make friends, and most importantly, have fun. I myself joined the Rugby football club at Clemson University, and it was the best decision I have made at school. I now have thirty guys to hang out with, something to do during the immense amount of down time I have, and the experience of something new is always exciting.

There is always something to do no matter what you like to do. There are countless activities for you to join or participate in, and most schools offer a way to find them. At Clemson, it looks like this:  http://stuaff.clemson.edu/organizations/listing.php.

The number of activities can be overwhelming, but don’t let that hold you back. You can always switch or drop something if you find that you do not like the activity, if it does not fit your schedule, or if it is simply not what you wanted. If you like multiple activities try a test run of them. The worst thing that can happen is it does not work out, and you move on.  If you are interested in something and there is no club for it, you can make up your own. That’s how the High-Five club at Clemson got started.

So make good use of groups as a source of fun, but keep in mind that your academics are just as, if not more, important. Keep in mind that there are certain things to beware of when joining a club:

  • You are at school to get a degree. It does not matter if you have the most fun you have ever had in your life if you cannot get through college. If you want to see your parents really yell at you, try wasting forty grand a year.
  • Do not spread yourself too thin when it comes to being in clubs or organizations. The more deeply involved you get, the better your experience can be.  But if you are too busy to give a hundred percent to what you are doing, then it can quickly become more work than fun.
  • Although one goal of joining a club or organization is to make friends, do not isolate yourself from everyone else. I had a roommate who became a complete jerk after he joined his frat.  “Have diversity of friends” may sound stupid, but it allows for more fun (options rule).

When I started this blog, I did it with the intent that I’d turn it over to the younger, fresher voices of our interns.  Brian wrote this and I had to laugh because I was well into my – ummm – more than thirties – and still dreading the question.  In fact, if I wasn’t doing what I’m doing, I’d be dreading it too.  Here’s Brian:

College is a very uncertain time for many of us.  One of the most confusing things can be the one thing that everyone feels compelled to ask constantly; “So… what do you want to do?”  I personally cannot escape this question.  Anyone I’ve ever met that has run out of legitimate things to say to me immediately falls back on this question.

Unfortunately, it’s a question many of us can’t answer.  There are the lucky few who happen to love the first thing they do, but most of us just try things until we find something that we’re good at, and even then, happiness isn’t guaranteed.

Fortunately for those of us who fall into the latter category, there are tools out there to help us answer this difficult question.  One such tool is Role Based Assessment.  RBA offers a different way of looking at ourselves, and how we fit into the workplace.  Universities across the country are noticing its usefulness.  One prominent northeastern college is considering offering RBA to all of its undergraduate business students, after being taken by only six students.  While there are other tools out there that were created for career guidance, RBA has been proven to work.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have something else to say the next time someone asks what you want to do?  Keep in mind: Thanksgiving break is approaching rapidly, a classic time for that question.

Ok Brian, I hereby promise NEVER to ask that question again.  Well, unless I’m trying to interest someone in getting the answer that’s right for them.