Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How, Exactly, Does One Network?

This past Friday I had the amazing experience of going to the College's Career Symposium. Although we host one every year, this was the first time I attended. Read on to learn what the Symposium is, what I got out of it, and why you should go next time!

Upon arriving at the keynote address, everyone receives a program with panel descriptions and alumni bios.

What is it?
The Career Symposium is an amazing event that essentially brings our alumni network together with current students in order to educate them on directions a major can take them, what a particular career entails, and learn how to network with a wonderful group of people. 

How does it work?
Registration is in advance; dress is business attire. There is a keynote speaker - this year's, Chris Eldridge '12, spoke about his personal career path and the basics of networking a crowd. Following the keynote, there are a variety of panels hosted by alumni for two hours - each panel is an hour long, so I had the opportunity to attend two of them. After that, there is a networking reception, which places all the alumni and current students in attendance in the same room. For alumni, it looked like a spontaneous reunion; for current students, this is the opportunity to really talk to panelists you want to know more about after hearing them speak, or seek out others whose careers you're curious about. 

Do I have to be a senior business major?
Absolutely not! Although the majority of students seemed to be business majors, the panel variety makes the event welcoming to a wide spectrum of interests. Although this is a networking event, networking is not just limited to the job search. Internships, connections for future employment, career-specific advice - all of these apply to a Purple Knight at any point in his or her college career. As you can see from the panel selection, there is a wide range of choice. Also, a panel's title does not mean that every panelist has the correlating major. If you were wondering, I went to the Government and Business panels - and every Business panelist had a different major.

To be honest, when I walked into the keynote speech, I was extremely nervous. Speaking with new people is not my strong suit; neither is answering the loaded question of "What do you want to do?". But even if speaking with people made me nervous, the environment as a whole made me more comfortable to leave my comfort zone, so to speak. Regardless of a shared major or the lack thereof, every person was chosen for the symposium because of the many areas they could offer advice in; there was no "wrong" person to speak with. Everyone truly was there to help you; if they weren't, they would not have come to the symposium in the first place. 

What I Learned:
My biggest takeaway from this event? Your career path is a process, not a single destination. Staying in the same job your entire career can be perfect for some people, but if it's not, that does not mean you are a failure; you just haven't found the optimal combination of your interests yet. I also learned about networking, and about myself in general - the more people I spoke with, the more specific my list of key "about-me" points became.

Networking can be extremely daunting, but remember - conversation is easiest with people you have something in common with. Don't go for the biggest name if you are not at all interested in what he or she does; several "less important" (all connections are important, for what they have to offer and as people), but more genuine contacts will be much more interesting and beneficial.

In Sum:
I would wholeheartedly recommend every Saint Mike's student attend the Symposium. Even if there isn't a panel that is specifically your field of study, a panelist or two may be. Likewise, if you're not in the job market just yet, the experience itself can still be extremely rewarding. I walked out of the reception feeling better about myself, and more confident about what I have to offer. And that's what really matters, isn't it?


Questions about the panels I went to, people I spoke with, or any other part of the Symposium and the SMC life? Comment below, or shoot me an email!

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