By Samantha Hart
As the Spring semester begins to make its closing gestures, eager students will surely be searching for summer internships. We will all scramble to find the perfect internship, not only to earn experience, but to build our network.
The debate over the importance of grades versus the importance of our network has spiked over the past several years as many are beginning to believe that having a stronger network is more valuable than having a 3.8 GPA.
In terms of careers, having experience most certainly takes the cake.
“Many recruiters … are much more interested in the experience of a candidate” than what grades they received or even what university they attended, says Frank Bruni, a New York Times columnist and author of “Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be.”
Getting experience, however, can be the most daunting task for recent college graduates. The phrase “you need experience to get experience” sadly rings true for many. How are we supposed to get experience if we don’t have anything to get our foot – or frankly, even our big toe – in the door to begin with?
This poses the question: Is it really all about who you know? Will our family friends, long-lost-but-recently-found cousins, and neighbors from down the street be the ones who first help us get our feet wet in the real world?
“These days, it’s not enough to keep your head down and produce A-plus work,” says Madeline Bell, CEO of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “You need to connect with others, be vocal about your interests and career goals, and build relationships with people you might not otherwise have met.”
The concept behind networking is not new. It’s no longer a secret that this strategy is more effective at getting many professional positions than having stellar academics.
So to answer the first question: Yes, it is all about who you know. Having a strong network of people who can vouch for you professionally and personally is what interviewers would like to see most out of their candidates.
To answer the second question: No, our family and friends are not the sole providers of our professional network. We can build our own network through the people we meet.
That being said, what is the best way to network?
“Our comfort level is to network with people we know and like: people with similar backgrounds and points of view,” said Bonnie Marcus, writer for Forbes and author of “The Politics of Promotion: How High Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead.
“Research shows us that this type of closed network, limits our exposure to people who can offer new connections and ideas.”
The following are the best ways to begin building a strong, meaningful network, according to Marcus:
1)Being clear and upfront about life and career goals. This will help in finding those with mutual values.
2)Build mutual relationships. These are the people who, not only can help you, but who also need your help. This type of relationship can be student/ professor, employee/ employer, player/ coach, or any number of combinations. As long as both parties have similar interests professionally, they can both help each other.
3) Be strategic. This can be regarding which people you choose to be a part of your network or which organizations event you choose to attend. This type of planning takes some time but it always beneficial.