As graduation and the life afterwards both creep closer on the horizon, your thoughts should be on completing your degree and / or landing your first job. Dealing with the issues of today’s job market and economic standing, both of those feats have become substantially more difficult. However the tried and true method of success, networking, remains one of the best ways to attain your goals. Networking has, and will continue to be, the greatest tool you have in your arsenal to move beyond living as a student to living as an employee / employer. A few months ago, July to be exact, a couple of friends of mine and I took a trip down to Atlanta to do some networking and make some connects with people we thought able to help us land some future job offers in the area. I personally set things up, leading me to start thinking about revealing my process for setting up a networking trip. Since I’ll be doing this on a much more frequent basis than most because of my desired career choice, I figured why not? The life of a freelancer is definitely one of travel and mystery.
Begin by researching what area you’re interested in visiting. It’s in your best interest to visit places you’re interested in living and working after you graduate. Don’t worry if the list is pretty expansive, your next step is to match your goals with the environments made to support them. Some areas of the country are better suited for specific types of careers, and pay employees differently. By finding out where likeminded professionals are appreciated most, you can easily figure out the best environment to migrate to.
Yvonne Corral, a Junior Communications major at Old Dominion University from Tucson, AZ, has yet to take a networking trip, but would like to. What’s keeping her looks to be the same problems many young professionals and students have; in her words, it’s “money, and I don’t really know where to start”. After talking with her for a while, it started to become apparent that apprehension and nerves looked to be the underlying issue. “To be honest, a guide to walk me through of what I should or shouldn’t do when networking. Who to contact, how to get started,” Corral said.
Those roadblocks can be overcome very simply by finding someone a bit more seasoned than you, be it an upperclassman, faculty member, employed alumni or successful friend, among others. Also, in order to make any career a successful one, it is vital that you get over your fears and hang ups, just as you did when you first arrived to college, your first job or other “socially awkward” situations. You’re looking to make a big change in your life and being able to exude that confidence will allow you to take advantage of opportunities that you’re going to create by showing a potential employer or partner that you’re ready for prime time!
Contact your school’s career services or department alumni to see who is currently living and working successfully in the city or area you’re looking to visit. Be sure to give your friends and family a call as well, as someone is always bound to know someone! When traveling to a place you’ve never been, creating a “mini-network” of people to rely on once you arrive is the most important part of this planning process, they will be able to let you know where to go, where not to go, when to get there and what to do.
JaLiza Braxton, Senior Journalism major from Newport News, VA fondly remembered a trip organized by her former Norfolk State University professor, Dr. Marcia Taylor. “I liked how we were given the chance to share what we had been doing with other students. I got tips from professionals that were doing what I want to do and it gave me a look into what the field was really about. At that time I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do within the PR field. I did make connections some with students, but mostly with professionals that could help me out with an internship or job in the future,” Braxton said.
The necessity of this trip is easily explained by listening to what a friend of mine, Dee Soto, had to say about her cross country move to Seattle, WA from Newport News, VA. The job she found after graduating from Old Dominion University in 2007 with a Communications degree and emphasis in Mass Media Studies wasn’t what she wanted to do, and the area made it extremely difficult to stay happy and on the path to meeting her life goals. When asked why she and her boyfriend wanted to move to Seattle, Soto said “initially we only researched it for vacation reasons. After we had been here the first time, we did more research into job opportunities, communities to live in, etc.”
She decided that a move was necessary, and turned a vacation into a career power move. Soto divulged the goods about her process in a conversation, saying “we came here (Seattle) on vacation on a whim and liked it. We met people the first time we were here but we didn't keep in touch. On one occasion, Darren (her significant other) did meet up with his friend who lived here. Of course when we came here, we would talk to people about good places to work/live, etc.”
The offers didn’t come immediately however, and a bit of ingenuity and troubleshooting yielded promising results. “Well, originally we applied but got little response, then we asked a friend of Darren's if we could use his address who already lives over here. Then we started to get responses from employers and we would fly here when they asked to interview,” Soto said.
She is now a CCR Group team member in Seattle, WA. When asked about her current situation and life after Virginia, she was glad that she took the risk. “There are pros and cons. The pros are my job is better, better place to live housing wise, lots of entertainment, things to do… Cons, we moved here without really knowing anyone else. It gets lonely, at least for me,” she said. Making the move has allowed her a fresh start in a better environment to facilitate her achievement of her goals, but it all started with a short trip to open the lines of communication.