I will readily admit that even as a career advisor, networking events are not my idea of a good time. I have a great admiration for people who can work a room and make quick connections, and a deep understanding that I am not one of those people. Here are a few ideas that have been helpful for me as I develop relationships in my own campus community.
1. Your current co-workers and colleagues can be your most valuable contacts
Just as I remind students that their classmates and peers could be potential business partners or provide future opportunities, your strongest contacts are those who know you well and can confidently vouch for your work and abilities. The people you currently work with will likely move on to other departments or institutions, and may keep you in mind as they come across positions that would be of interest to you. Build a reputation for doing good work and being easy to work with, and you are already networking effectively. Remember as well that networking isn’t always about job opportunities….sometimes it’s small pieces of information that are helpful. I wouldn’t know about $5 lunchtime yoga at our rec center or how to order a cheap yet delicious drink at Starbucks (tall Pike’s place with one pump toffee nut syrup, add your own cream) without my co-workers, and I try to return the favor when I know of something that might interest them.
2. Volunteer on your own campus
Look for opportunities to engage with staff members from across campus with whom you wouldn’t normally interact. My campus has a Staff Council, and serving as an elected member has been an opportunity to work with colleagues from a variety of departments. Participating on judicial hearing boards, assisting with orientation, or volunteering for an auxiliary committee or working group are other opportunities to get outside departmental silos and broaden your skills and relationships.
3. Local external organizations can facilitate connections
Along with helping you stay current with best practices for other student affairs functional areas, external organizations related to student affairs can be great networking opportunities. Being a part of my state division for ACPA has certainly helped me connect with colleagues from other campuses, but I’ve also been surprised by how many staff members from AU I hadn’t met before are a part of the organization. Many national organizations have state-level chapters that are inexpensive to join and yet can provide great opportunities to meet colleagues who share similar interests.
Of course, instead of joining groups or organizations, networking can be as simple as inviting another staff member out to lunch or for a coffee to get to better know them and the work they do. Building connections across campus will help you better serve students while continuing to grow as a student affairs professional.
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Jake Nelko at firstname.lastname@example.org.