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Moody Musings: Making connections and building professional relationships

Just about everyone I know has a dream job, a dream internship or a dream opportunity. Most people have no clue how they’ll even come close to making their dreams a reality.

I wrote a column last semester that was strictly about the importance of a mentor, but sometimes you don’t have the time or ability to form that kind of relationship with someone. Sometimes, you have to recognize who can help you get what you want and get you where you want to be. Often, these relationships and connections remain completely professional but are the hardest to form.

Forming these relationships can be awkward and they can almost seem fake. But now, more than ever, you have to be able to voice what you want to someone who may be capable of helping you get it.

Networking. It’s the magic word that is thrown at college students at every available opportunity. It’s probably why we chose Mercer, it’s why we are encouraged to speak up, to seek out opportunities and to never burn bridges. But what are you supposed to do once you have this magic person in your face? The challenge is getting them to use their powers so that your dreams don’t become deferred.

There are a few steps that you can take to make sure these interactions become pieces of a network and professional relationships.

 

  1. Make yourself available
    While networking with professionals, establish a presence in the room. If possible, come prepared by knowing who is in the room and what they do. This will make your conversations much more strategic and intentional. Introduce yourself to these people and draw them into you. Talk to them about your dedication to the field and profession, what you have done to deserve a seat at the table and why you want it so badly. Allow yourself to stand out and suddenly become available.
  2. Listen eagerly
    Don’t control the conversation though. We often miss out on opportunities when we don’t listen. Allow yourself to serve as a sponge soaking up knowledge, whether it’s what you want to hear or not. Remember, these are still people and often you can find out how you can help them and become someone they want to help by listening to what they’re really interested in and passionate about. It’s important to think about the person then the position. Ask questions and let them go to work.
  3. Be open to feedback
    Humble yourself. You are here to sell yourself, but be sure to let your potential connection know that you want to leave this room better than when you walked in and that you are willing to take on any opportunity that will allow you to become better.
  4. Volunteer for additional assignments and assisting in other ways 
    Those who want it usually do what they have to do to get it. The first internship isn’t always the big paid one with the most accolades. Often, it’s the one that puts you in place to the dream one.  Make sure you’re not seeking one thing and saying no to everything else. Let your connection know that you are willing to help out in any way and even keep them updated on your progress until they feel like you’re to become an investment of theirs. Be honest about what you really want to do, but don’t ignore the path it may take to get there.
  5. Create a follow-up
    If you didn’t ask for contact information, that was the biggest mistake you made that day. If you had a good or bad conversation, make sure you reach out to the person you spoke with to thank them for their time and help. Let them know that if possible, you’d love to have quarterly calls, email check-ups or even a coffee meeting if they are ever in town again. They saw your face, but it’s important to make them remember your name. Just as you did in the first connection, make sure all of the conversations and interactions are not just about you. Get to know this person and make that professional relationship you’ll need someday.

On Sept. 26, Mercer’s Office of Career Services will be having a Pre-Career Fair Networking Night for their fall career fair and graduate expo the next day. Remember these few tips, and hopefully you’ll leave with your dreams in closer reach than they were when you first started.

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