Jessica Dugan has a beauty fashion, and lifestyle blog, Belle Adore. But she’s also a senior at the University of Richmond majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing and a minor in Journalism. She has had tons of networking experience in college, all of which helped her land an internship at QVC this past summer in their social media department! Take it away Jessica!
“My love for *all things* professional development truly started during my first semester of college. I joined a selective business fraternity that pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me everything that I needed to know to navigate the world of internships, post-grad jobs and just about everything in between. Over the past several semesters I’ve worked at my University’s Alumni and Career Services office serving as an advisor for students needing help with professional documents, answering general questions and facilitating workshops on topics such as interviewing and personal selling. These experience have not only defined part of my college experience but they have helped me understand the necessity of certain skills and have proved their value in my personal and professional life.
These opportunities have taught me so much about the worlds of personal branding and professional development so when students ask me what they can do to better their reach their goals, I feel confident about the answers I can give!
Usually, the first thing I recommend is to network! Yes it can be daunting, a little uncomfortable and most of the time challenging but it’s a skill that can set you up for success. At its heart, networking it all about building and maintaining relationships! Take away the business settings and professional dress and networking is just about conversation! The intention of networking doesn’t always have to be about getting a job, instead, it can be an opportunity to hear stories from people working in fields you’re interested in, learn more about potential jobs and career paths, ask questions and grow your network! Hopefully, these conversations will help you make your vision clearer, answer some uncertainties you have and give you confidence in your career decisions.
We’ve all heard it before…It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know. And while that’s pretty disheartening to hear as a very academically involved college student, I have to agree. Professional relationships, especially for young professionals starting their careers, can be a priceless resource. You truly can’t predict what’s going to happen over the course of a few years, and you’ll be surprised by the number of times your connections will come into play over that time period. Whether you want to meet for coffee to chat about tips for working in a respective field, asking for an introduction, or asking for an expert opinion, your network can shape your professional experience.
So how can you network as a college student?
Well, it’s not as hard as it seems! Keep your eyes peeled for events that might interest you! Maybe it is a local speaker that’s coming to campus or a program created for a specific area of study – usually, the people attending have similar passions and interests and so it makes the perfect opportunity to strike up a conversation! Don’t discount the value of student peers either! Students have such unique and diverse experiences from their summer internships and involvement at home. They can share their personal stories, give you advice and even pass along some of their resources.
How else can students perfect their networking skills?
It’s important to be confident when you enter these situations and one way to do this is to have a strong personal brand! Personal branding is definitely a hot topic and it can mean something different to anyone you talk to, but in short, your personal brand is all about your unique combination of skills and experiences as well how you stand out from others. It’s more than just what’s on your resume…find your passions, define your skills, set your goals and create your brand around that. If you’re similar to me and have an interest in the creative sides of business and marketing, one of the best ways that I’ve been able to translate my personal brand is through my blog! People around me, including potential employers, understand that I’m capable of creating content and engaging an audience as well as curating a social media presence around a unique aesthetic. Your social media presence, extracurriculars, and path of study are all opportunities to reflect your personal brand. This is just one part of my personal brand but it’s proven to be a great talking point in networking situations. In displaying these parts of yourself, you are putting yourself in a position where you can intelligently answer questions and prove that you’re an *expert* in that area!
Hopefully, this post helped translate the importance of building and fostering meaningful professional relationships, especially while in college. Networking doesn’t have to be terrifying! It used to put me in a panic mode but now I look forward to these opportunities! College is all about learning and growing both personally and professionally and what better way to that than to connect with people who have been where you are now and are where you might want to be in the future?! You never know who you might meet or just how exactly they could change your life!”