What Networking Really Looks Like (as told by 4 Lehigh students)
Networking is an important step in any career journey. As told by the students themselves, here’s how they leveraged a networking opportunity to their advantage.
I work for the Lehigh Liners and recently was calling to thank donors for their recent donations to the Go Campaign. The conversations are typically very short (we thank the donor, we tell them we don't want to take up their time, and then we call to thank the next donor.) It's usually a fun and interesting conversation when an alumni donor wants to talk to me, because there's usually some bit of advice or insight that I learn from the conversation. When I recently spoke to an alum, he asked about what I'm studying and began telling me about Lehigh's political landscape during the 2012 Presidential Election, back when he was on campus. I shared my political science academic major and career interests as well. We had a genuinely interesting conversation, and he started telling me about family and connections that worked with the Clinton campaign in 2016. Though I enjoyed the conversation, I didn't expect anything to come from it, but then he told me that I was free to reach out to him (he gave me his contact information) anytime for literally anything I needed. He specifically mentioned resume help, looking at internships, and career advice, all of which were incredibly timely suggestions as I was beginning to think about how to take my next steps gaining political consulting experience. He was clear that he wanted to make himself available as a resource to me, which was awesome and I immediately followed up.
Thankfully, I had recently been working with a Career Coach in the Career Center to organize and develop a strong LinkedIn profile so I sent him a message on Linkedin to thank him for offering to be a resource. He responded quickly and said again that I could reach out to him for anything I need at any time. Going forward, I'm going to keep in contact with him and ask about his career path after graduating from Lehigh. Additionally, when I find myself in New York City in the future, I'm going to meet up to get advice from an in person conversation.
This year I took full advantage of connecting with Lehigh alum on Lehigh Connects. One alum on there, Jay, really went above and beyond for me, and made the effort I put into networking really pay off. I started by browsing the network to identify profiles that were of interest to me and in the international law, finance or wall street industries. After messaging Jay, he offered to meet with me in person during an upcoming visit to the Lehigh campus. During our meeting Jay really pushed me to identify my career goals, explore why I was interested in those areas and clarify what type of internships would be a good fit for me. Through that conversation, I learned how to more effectively communicate my interests and ask specific questions that helped me gather information I could use. Jay then suggested I look through his LinkedIn connections and choose three people he could introduce me to. I did just that and wrote cover letters and shared my resume with Jay to pass along. It was a very unexpected offer to tap into his network, which has led to 2 job interviews and most recently a summer internship at a law firm in NYC. I knew Lehigh Connects would provide me access to the advice and mentorship of Lehigh alum, but in my case reaching out and building a relationship with an alum also grew to a lot more. I learned a great deal about professional communication through the experience but I also felt comfortable asking questions and figuring things out with my mentor without feeling like I had to be an expert networker in the beginning. Overall the experience has taught me to take advantage of every opportunity to connect to the people around me.
After finishing freshman year, I reflected and realized that yes, the year was done, but there was a gap in connecting what I learned in class and real-world experience. So coming into sophomore year, my goal was to be able to secure an internship or co-op position that relates to my engineering major after sophomore year. My first step was to visit The Center for Career & Professional Development. The first time I went to Career Lab, I worked on the first draft of the resume and cover letter and after some feedback from Career staff, I returned the next day for a final review. I knew that with a presentable resume and cover letter, I could start applying to internships and co-ops.
From my Career Coach I also learned that as an international student, it is advisable to start the application process early because of additional visa challenges. I submitted applications to several companies and successfully landed multiple interviews. I was not, however, receiving any offers, so I remained persistent and booked appointments with the Engineering Career Coach. With various appointments, she kept teaching me how to approach and prepare for interviews. With every interview that I completed and employer I met, my confidence improved. At my next appointment with my Career Coach, she told me that Knoll Inc. had recently posted their openings on Handshake and she shared the Talent Acquisition Specialists contact information. I reached out to Knoll and was invited to interview with them. Because of the interview skills I gained from working with my coach and experience from previous interviews, I was able to shine during the interview. Four days later Knoll extended me an offer. Overall the experience taught me the importance of being persistent and taking advantage of every resource available. If you work hard and seek out help, your time will come!
As a senior in the throws of the job search, I am always taking advantage of every resource at my disposal. When preparing for a recent on-site interview, I was able to do just that by networking with a Lehigh alumna that had previously worked at the company with which I was interviewing. For this experience, I did not go through the usual networking routes using LinkedIn or Lehigh Connects. I was lucky enough to be connected with my mentor by a family friend, who also studied at Lehigh as an undergraduate. Connecting via this channel is an important example of how networking opportunities can materialize out of all different kinds of interactions and relationships.
Luckily for me, this alumna lived in the Lehigh Valley and was enthusiastic about helping me prepare for my interview day. We spoke on the phone before meeting up in person later in the week. I am so happy that I took advantage of this opportunity to make this professional connection, because her advice allowed me to take my interview preparation to the next level. I arrived at my interview knowing almost exactly what to expect. After working so hard in the days leading up to my on-site visit, I was able to relax and have fun. I came out of the day feeling accomplished, which was due largely in part to the connection I was able to make utilizing the Lehigh alumni network.
Need help with networking?
Review the information and resources on the Handshake Networking tile
Come to Career Lab (walk in hours) Monday - Friday, 10 am - 3 pm in 500 MG to get help building your LinkedIn profile, drafting messages to contacts or asking questions about how to utilize networking steps in your career exploration or internship and job search.
Join the community on Lehigh Connects to explore alumni profiles from industries, academic majors or positions of interest. Send messages and ask questions to get advice from professionals in careers that connect to your interests.
Explore Mango, an online tool to help you draft messages or emails to network contact