By Bryan Smilek, Opinion Writer
It is commonly stated that freshman cannot gain opportunities in the business world. Internships are supposedly hard to acquire and leadership development programs are geared towards sophomores and juniors. The majority of the time, freshmen tend to be discouraged by these statements and do not attend networking events or career fairs. Some first-year students do not even have a resume written yet. This lack of preparation leads students to wonder: why start networking early?
In the first year of school, students are adjusting to life on their own. Now, they are required to feed themselves, wash their own laundry, and meet new people on a daily basis. Often, such activities are complicated and time-consuming. Due to the magnitude of the transition from high school to college life, many freshmen do not attend career related activities and networking events. They view them as intimidating, challenging, and not worth the time and effort. However, I have discovered that networking is extremely advantageous for freshman. Last month, I attended an event at Johnson and Johnson headquarters in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The program was sponsored by the ALPFA chapter of New Jersey. Eleven Seton Hall students attended this event and the majority consistent of upperclassmen. From the viewpoint of a new student, I was rather nervous, but I quickly became friends with the members of the club. They supported me, gave me advice, and helped me build a resume within a few days. Upon arrival at the event, I was introduced to a senior executive of Jannsen, the pharmaceutical company that collaborates with Johnson and Johnson, who had the opportunity to critique my resume. While learning from my mistakes, I became aware that executives are not robots, rather they are people. This executive started small talk and I immediately became comfortable around him. At the conclusion of my session, this corporate figure gave me his business card and requested me to follow up via LinkedIn.
The experience at Johnson and Johnson taught me that it is not scary to converse with people of high power. Rather than acting judgmental and powerful, these men and women are delightful and yearn to build a company through helping society. Additionally, I was easily able to acknowledge constructive criticism and become open to suggestions after undergoing the process for the first time in my life. Finally, the stress from the adjustment to college was relieved by witnessing high-ranking, successful professionals succeed after college. They had helpful insight on how to graduate from college with the minimal stress level. Experiences such as mine prove the fact that it is never too early a time to begin networking. Often, recruiting managers remember freshman who have conversed with them and followed up on LinkedIn or via email when they apply for internships or leadership programs. Commonly, internships are earned as juniors, but by networking with recruiters, students vastly increase their chances of landing an opportunity that may be deemed hard to obtain in the public viewpoint.
In addition to helping build connections, meeting people helps sharpen social skills. Executives are human beings and yearn to assist aspiring businessmen who admire their work. By asking a corporate worker about their past career track or interests, it becomes a memorable conversation in which someone was interested in their life. Consequently, they take more of an interest in a prospective recruit who they have bonded with as opposed to someone that has asked generic questions about the place a recruiter works in on a daily basis. Overall, networking is beneficial to both the newcomer and the recruiter. Students learn how to build resumes and converse with people in high executive positions. The recruiters benefit by learning about someone interested in their personal passions and can improve their company through hiring employees. It is never too early to build connections because of the skills acquired and the relationships built that may lead to opportunities in future endeavors.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, October 24th print edition.
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