Most college students shudder when we hear the word “network.” And for good reason: every time someone brings up the word, discussion of our careers and future plans follow. Of course, we can’t simply stop networking just because we find it stressful. Almost every industry requires networking to break into, not to mention engaging in these conversations creates an abundance of opportunities and benefits.
“It’s very essential and helpful for a personal to network to not only expand their professional networks but also to have someone to lean on during that time of job searching or skill building or whatever it may be in terms of their professional career,” said Renard Miles, director of Employment and Programming at William & Mary Cohen Career Center.
Many students find creating a professional network challenging. If you never learned how or did not inherit a professional network from your parents, networking poses an even bigger challenge. So how does a student learn this essential skill? And how can they go about finding a creating a professional network? Luckily, for the students at William & Mary, the Cohen career center offers many opportunities to get students in front of industry professionals.
Read on to find 10 networking events at William & Mary:
Ferguson Blair Publishing Seminar
William & Mary hosts The Ferguson Blair Publishing Seminar every two years and I fortunately attended one. The seminar spans two days and requires an RSVP and a $15 fee to cover the reception, continental breakfast and lunch provided. William & Mary invites alumni from across the industry from book to magazine publishing to speak as panelists. These panelists also cover a wide span of jobs within the industry including editors, marketers and literary scouts. I learned more about the publishing industry in this one seminar than I had ever learned before. I didn’t need to prepare for anything, I showed up with a single pen, no other preparation and zero confidence in my abilities. Turns out, I didn’t need any of those (except for the pen), since the panelists covered practically every aspect of publishing.
“The Publishing Seminar gave me the opportunity to connect with well established writers and editors and I appreciated the variety of information they shared,” William & Mary sophomore Mia Lunati said.
This seminar provides a rare opportunity for those interested in publishing. The panelists differ each year, allowing students to learn from a wide range of professionals. However, some panelists decide to come back year after year, showing their dedication to their alma mater and the students eager to join their field. This seminar provides a resource for everyone, and many found their interest in publishing as a result.
Dinner with Swem Library Board of Directors
Every semester, the Library Ambassadors (a student organization at William & Mary) hosts a dinner with certain members and the Library Board of Directors. This event operates on a first-come, first-serve basis as long as the student participates in Library Ambassadors. While not advertised as a networking opportunity, students can easily treat it as one. The board members come from a variety of different industries and provide a well of information.
“I was given a lot of advice on how to move forward in my career and also information on the other careers I could move into,” William & Mary sophomore Shreeya Ravi said. “It also taught me how to act and respond in professional environments like a dinner with your boss or in this case, alumni.”
This dinner does require semi-formal to formal attire, but the coordinator does an amazing job keeping all students informed on how to proceed and proper attire. Even though the alumni serve as professionals in their field, they strive to not intimidate and to get to know the students they dine with. This dinner also provides one of few opportunities where the professionals actually outnumber the students.
Fall career fairs
The fall semester at William & Mary offers five career fairs hosted by the Cohen Career Center: the on-campus student employment fair, Meet the Firms, the Career and Internship fair, the Career Diversity Expo and the Graduate and Professional School Fair. The Cohen Career Center hosts all of these fairs at the beginning of the semester in September, and each provides its own benefits. Meet the Firms specifically gears towards students looking to work in finance, accounting or consulting. The Diversity Expo, meanwhile, features a panel in the morning that encourages students to ask questions and an employer showcase in the afternoon. As the name would dictate, the Graduate and Professional School Fair caters to graduate schools. Admissions representatives come to this fair to recruit prospective students to attend their graduate school. All these fairs occur annually and welcome every student to attend.
Cohen Career Center staff coordinates meet-ups between alumni in specific industries and students. These meet-ups happen based on a rotating schedule and differ year to year unlike the career fairs on this list. They provide a great opportunity for specific fields to show their stuff and for students interested in those fields to acquire industry-specific knowledge. These meetups range from sports marketing to data science and also include broad industries such as “creative careers.”
Information sessions happen often and provide opportunities to learn about a huge range of industries. Employers themselves host these sessions so students can really get down to the specifics of that industry or company. At William & Mary, large companies such as Citigroup and Vector Marketing find an opportunity to host information sessions for students. If you know what types of companies you want to work for, these information sessions provide an amazing opportunity to get your name into the minds of recruiters.
Coffee Chats don’t happen often, so students should grab the opportunity when they can. These chats provide one-on-one interactions with employers in specific industries. Like information sessions, these chats don’t follow a schedule the way the career fairs do.
“For Coffee Chats and Information Sessions…those rotate based on recruiting timelines, based on employer needs and based on the interest of students,” Miles said.
Obviously, students should prepare a bit before signing up for these chats since you won’t find a buffer of other students to fall back on. The Cohen Career Center also allows students to request specific industries or companies for both Coffee Chats and Information Sessions if students aren’t satisfied with the lineup. These chats provide a rare opportunity for a student to dominate an employer’s attention, making them amazing networking opportunities.
The Cohen Career Center offers employers the opportunity to table at the Sadler Center, the heart and center of the William & Mary campus. It might feel awkward to walk by a random person in a suit on your way to the dining hall, but for students interested in the industry or the company, this provides a great opportunity to learn and to network. These tabling opportunities don’t feel as formal as other networking opportunities since they literally just set up a table outside of the dining hall and students can come and go as they please. These provide a low-stakes and low-stress opportunity to network.
Spring annual events
Much like in the fall semester, the spring semester features its own set of annual career events. The spring semester offers four events: the On-campus Employment Fair, the Career and Internships Fair, the Career Diversity Expo and the K-12 Education Recruitment Day. While these career fairs work much like the ones in the fall semester, the K-12 Education Recruitment Day differs.
“We have the K-12 Education Recruitment Day which is a partnership with the School of Education,” Miles said.
The K-12 Education Recruitment Day looks less like a fair and more like a string of interviews. Employers from across the districts spend the day interviewing interested students and recent graduates who want to go into public education. This event takes place in the William & Mary School of Education in February and provides a great networking opportunity for students interested in K-12 education. The spring semester offers just as many recurring opportunities as the fall semester.
Career Treks and Trips
William & Mary offers four recurring trips for select groups of students to learn about specific industries. These trips occur for the same industries every year and provide an amazing opportunity to immerse oneself in the specific field. About 20 students go on these trips and none of them restrict students based on major or graduating year. Some of these trips require an application which opens months before the actual trip, but others require simply a registration.
“We have what we call Career Treks. Students have the opportunity to participate in those throughout the academic year,” Miles said. “In the fall, we take a group of students to New York for our annual William & Mary Wallstreet Program.”
In addition to the Wall Street Program, William & Mary hosts A Day in D.C. over winter break. A trip designed specifically for STEM fields occurs over breaks as well, though it rotates between winter, spring and summer break depending on the year. For the humanities majors, William & Mary hosts a Creative Careers/Marketing trip in the spring semester. These trips provide the opportunity to physically explore the space in which your career might take place and meet the professionals in the place in which they work. The Cohen Career center sends out multiple emails when the applications open and how to register once students can do so. Students can find this information by signing up for the Cohen Career Center’s newsletters so make sure you add yourself to their list.
Any event as long as the student plays it correctly
An event title does not need to include the word “networking” to consider it a networking event. Any event that allows students to meet with professionals in an industry they potentially want to work in provides an opportunity to network. If a student plays their cards right, all events can become networking events.
“Any event in which students can engage with professionals or people in the field can be turned into a networking event,” Miles said. “A student may add that person on LinkedIn or they can collect their business card or follow up via email. And then it turns into a professional network in that way as well.”
Anything that can get professionals in your chosen field to remember your name counts as networking. Anything from internships to book talks to lectures and workshops can turn into a networking event. When in doubt, check TribeLink or even the posters in the Sadler Center to find events with people you want to add to your professional network.