Yes – I know homecoming is all about the game, the parties, the overnight guests, the tailgating etc. But why not really use the time to cultivate some professional relationships too? In fact, if you check out my TL on Twitter, you will see that fall homecoming is probably one of the main topics of conversation for HBCU students. For students in their senior year or who are planning internships next summer, homecoming is the time to begin the conversation.
For years, I’ve been branding homecoming season as the fall kick-off for job search or internship search. Most college students don’t know it, but big employers focus their recruiting for new grads and summer interns the fall before they need them. So if you are graduating in the Class of 2015, it means the Fall of 2014 is when major employers are seeking to fill their new career hire slots for the following year. This is when you should start to look for these opportunities. Ask the career center staff on your campus. They know.
So this fall, while you are thinking about homecoming, I want you to think about how to network on campus with the alumni.
How to Network on Campus
1. Cardinal rule of networking is – Givers Gain. It’s not just about what people can do for you. It’s also how you can help them. When you meet alumni, ask about how you can help their company get exposure on your campus. Invite them to speak with your campus club, connect them with the career center or connect them with a faculty member.
2. Sign up to be a volunteer with the Homecoming committee. I can guarantee you that they need more help than they have. Not coulda ill volunteering help you build your resume with volunteer work, you might get to meet some influential alumni.
3. Keep your giving circle large as you network on campus. Don’t restrict yourself to only your brothers or your sorors. Use homecoming to meet and interact with more people beyond your small group.
4. As your plans to network on campus yield some results, remember to follow up with people in a timely manner. Maintaining your connections will take time. Don’t engage if you won’t follow up.
5. Have your 30-second elevator speech ready to go. This is a quick way to communicate who YOU are and what you are about. Develop and practice your little 30-second commercial about yourself. You will use it throughout the job search process a lot. Sample – “Hi. My name is xxxx, I’m a junior here studying xxx and planning to xxx. I’m the social chair for (name your group) and we are hosting xxx. When did you graduate?”
6. When you network on campus; network up AND down. What do I mean by that? Don’t assume all the great contacts you make, will be people who are senior professionals to you. Look also to peers who might be in different majors from you with whom you can buddy-up to share job announcements or job leads.
7. Ask the career center on campus, what activities they are planning that will incorporate the number of alumni who will be on campus during homecoming weekend. Many alumni are more than willing to participate. If they have nothing planned, they you and your campus group should plan an event that will allow your members to network on campus with returning alumni.
8. If you are going to be embarking on a job search or internship search, it shouldn’t be the first thing you say. However, don’t be shy about requesting follow up conversations.
9. Ask people how they would like for you to follow up. It makes no sense to call them if Twitter is where they want to meet.
10. Brush up on your social networking skills. if you have ever been at a conference or an event like homecoming, you know that groups come together really quickly when people are wired and connected. Don’t get left out.