Seize Your Summer: Use time off to build your network and personal brand

As college students, it is overwhelming enough to keep up with academics, extracurriculars, a social life, and if we’re lucky, a normal sleep schedule. All of these things are important and part of every student’s experience but there’s one thing a lot of us neglect to think about until it becomes inevitable – the job search. For students in the first half of their college career, graduating and getting a job seems light years away, until they blink and the nights with friends are traded for nights nitpicking every detail on their resume. I may or may not be speaking from personal experience, but whether late-night LinkedIn stalking scored you an internship or not, there’s no better time than the summer to be proactive in the professional world.

By taking the time to build your career network and update your resume or portfolio, you’ll have one less thing on your plate during the academic year and hopefully won’t have to turn down another Bravo watch party with your friends.

First things first, what exactly is networking?

I was embarrassed to have this question considering how often I hear this word but I have learned it is more than what we typically think of. Per definition, to network is to “interact with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.” Seems easy enough, right? Not exactly. It’s important to remember that while networking is about exchanging information and developing relationships, it’s also about maintaining those relationships. Developing and maintaining relationships of any capacity takes time and maintenance and it is not a “once and done” interaction.

Building a personal strategy

To get the most out of networking, it starts with yourself. Start with taking some time to update your resume and LinkedIn with all of your accomplishments. I am hoping to go into a more creative field, and I plan to use this summer to update my creative resume, business cards, digital portfolio to create a more unified personal brand. Reach out to your professors or peers with your updates and ask for their thoughts or edits they suggest to get it as close to perfect as you can.

Start your network

Start by simply thinking about where you want to be in three to five years. Now think about who you have talked to that is in that career field, location, or has a connection to someone that fits that criteria and building a “connection map.”  I have started keeping a working spreadsheet of who I have networked with to maintain those relationships, as well as a list of people I am hoping to network with in the future.

Be proactive

Using this time to build and maintain connections will pay off as you start your job hunt for the future. Set up informational interviews with people you hope to add to your network to seek information about their background, career, location, or organization.  Reconnect with people you have built a relationship with previously. By maintaining a consistent level of contact and bringing value to the relationship, you are putting yourself a step ahead of peers who only reach out when they need something out of a relationship.

While it’s important to use the time during the summer to relax, it’s just as important to use your time effectively as well. You can still sit by the pool and be productive, or use your rainy days to focus on some networking tasks. Seizing some of your summer time off to build your network will pay off in the long run.

 

 

Colleen Borian is a student at the University of Alabama studying public relations and communication studies. On campus, Colleen serves as an Account Executive for the student-run PR firm Capstone Agency, serves on the Alabama Panhellenic Association’s Executive Council and is involved in The University of Alabama Dance Marathon. Colleen loves Diet Coke, Bravo TV shows and of course, Alabama football. She loves serving as a Pearson Campus Ambassador and getting to work with professors and students on campus. Roll Tide!
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