In high school, I associated the term “network” with computer systems and the digital world. In college, I now think of a network as a diverse array of people who can offer career-related and personal guidance to one another.
As a business student, I have heard this same advice from professors, advisors and peers. Start reaching out to professionals you admire and schedule meetings with them. The initial contact could be an introductory email, a LinkedIn message or even an elevator pitch at a career fair. No matter how you begin the relationship, it is important to keep the momentum going and follow up with the person to demonstrate your interest.
For many students, networking is a way to build connections for future internships and jobs. At most job fairs I have attended, students armed with padfolios and cover letters seem focused on this sole purpose. But networking is far more than a pathway to your next summer opportunity.
It is a way to find people with circuitous but compelling career journeys, people with interests that differ from yours and people who may be top-level executives now but still remember what it was like to stand in your own shoes.
All of these people are not hard to find. During this year of virtual reality, I learned that Rutgers' network stretches far past the banks of the Raritan river. If you need proof, just drive around any road in New Jersey. You will likely see more than one scarlet "R" bumper sticker.
More than 530,000 Rutgers alumni work in every industry and every corner of the world. In my experience, members of the Rutgers community are eager to impart insights to students and provide advice on any topic.
Whether you are an aspiring entrepreneur, a student hoping to learn what a day-in-the-life looks like for a particular profession or a senior about to enter the workforce, you will be able to find just what you are searching for by connecting with members of the Rutgers family.
In 2020, I messaged a fellow Rutgers student on LinkedIn to ask for advice before interviewing for an internship. As soon as I pressed the “send” button, doubt immediately overcame me. What if she did not reply? What if she did not even check her LinkedIn?
I had already begun looking for another student to reach out to when I received a response. Not only did we end up chatting for more than an hour on the phone, but also I also learned about the intricacies of an industry I had not even considered before.
You may not know it, but you probably already have a strong network of peers at Rutgers. Meeting other students through tutoring programs or class breakout rooms enables you to exchange information about what classes to take and which clubs to join. In a massive public university, it is crucial to form this network to make the most of your college experience.
To meet with alumni one-on-one, you can join a formal mentorship program. By creating a profile through Rutgers Business School's TeamUP platform, I discovered a mentor who matched my career goals and spoke with him over Zoom.
He reflected on his previous jobs and volunteer experiences, while I explained how Rutgers has changed since he last stepped onto campus. We both learned from each other, and I may have been able to visit his workplace if not for the pandemic.
Pipeline programs such as the Rutgers Road to Wall Street Program, Road to Silicon V/Alley Program and Road to Consulting Program also integrate coursework with mentorship components, giving students technical skills and potential connections.
Perhaps the most underrated aspect of Rutgers’ network is the faculty and staff. As a student leader at the Honors College, I planned a virtual mail-in voting event and reached out to professors to see if they were willing to participate in a panel discussion.
Two professors graciously accepted my offer and spoke on the panel, along with the former Middlesex County Clerk Elaine Flynn. Although I did not take a class with any of the professors I had emailed initially, all of them gave me responses and expressed interest in participating in future events.
When we give tours of the University to prospective students, we spotlight historical buildings, academic achievements, football games and even the legend of Lord Snipp. We should make it a point to tell newcomers not to underestimate the power of Rutgers’ network.
Preanka Pillai is a Rutgers Business School sophomore majoring in marketing and business analytics and information technology. Her column, "Unboxed," runs on alternate Fridays.
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