Girl, You Better (net)Work!
by Trishala Jain, 2019–2020 Miss CEO High School Ambassador and student at Dublin High School
Networking. It’s a word we’ve heard many times, but many misconceptions loom around it. Some people think that networking is only for industry professionals, or that it’s not meant for teenagers. Others believe that they are already actively networking by maintaining an active presence on social media. The truth is, your self-brand is built upon your network, and it’s time you started building it. Networking is so much more than friending or following someone on social media — is the process of interacting with others, such as other students, relatives, and industry professionals, with the goal of exchanging information and gaining professional contacts. about it. It’s the time when you get to market yourself and showcase your skills and experience to a broad range of people.
Everyone today seems to place such a high emphasis on the importance of networking and starting from a young age, and they’re not wrong. In a world where interpersonal connections are as valuable as gold, it’s time that we introduce ourselves on how to network effectively while we are still in school. It’s never too early to start building up your connections, and you never know when you might reach out to them someday. Networking is a crucial step towards securing informational interviews, resources, even potential job offers because when you talk to professionals, you become exposed to various careers as well as any opportunities they may know about.
In late January of this year, I attended Miss CEO’s workshop “Build Your Brand” at The Tech Interactive with the hopes of forging many connections and networking with many industry professionals. Throughout the event, professionals reviewed resumes, conducted informational interviews, and answered career-oriented questions with the goal of equipping us with the skills needed to secure work or volunteer experience. While networking with everyone at the event, I not only became exposed to the broad range of STEM careers waiting for me, but I could also grasp what it was like to work in a STEM-oriented company first-hand. Many of the professionals I met gave me valuable information about where to look for summer internships or how I could prepare myself for college and future careers, which greatly helped me when I was contemplating my summer plans.
My experience with networking has opened doors to opportunities that I never imagined. At a networking event roughly a year ago, I met the founder of a non-profit who helped me lead my own initiative in my community. And at another networking event at my school, I was introduced to the alum of a college I’m very interested in who gave me many valuable tips for when I begin to apply to college. And by simply scrolling on LinkedIn, I connected with many individuals who supported me while I was searching for summer internships.
Your networking journey has to start from somewhere, and that could be your friends, family, peers, even classmates. Simply networking with the people at your school could lead to lifelong connections and help you build up your network. And networking isn’t just restricted to people who have the same career interest as you — it could be anyone! It never hurts to know how someone got interested in a certain field, and hearing about their experience could spark some new interests in you as well. From crafting a LinkedIn account to attending networking events, even socializing at community gatherings, the key to networking is to simply get out there. It’s not about who you know, rather, it’s about who knows you. So put yourself out there! You never know who you might meet and what those connections could lead to.
The bottom line? Connecting with professionals on LinkedIn, securing informational interviews, and hearing about other opportunities are just a few of the advantages waiting for you at a networking event. Whether they be Miss CEO events, college fairs, or simply community gatherings, networking opportunities are all around us and it’s time we put them to good use.