Value of college contacts and networks
As famed management consultant Peter Drucker aptly stated, “More business decisions occur over lunch and dinner than at any other time, yet no MBA courses are given on the subject.” If you’re a college student, the prospect of networking to find a job or internship probably isn’t at the front of your mind. Perhaps your main aim is to maximize your GPA, or maybe your focus is on extracurricular activities and leadership positions to make you stand out from the crowd. Yes, employers look at the entire package and the rigor of your courses, but, all else being equal, networking and establishing contacts with those in your industry of choice is what serves as the VIP pass that lets you cut the long queue for a job.
The Direct Connection
Let’s look at a case in point from Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations School. According to their 2011 Postgraduate Report of Bachelor’s Degree Recipients, 14% of graduates found their jobs through personal contacts and 6% found their jobs through alumni contacts. That’s a whopping 20% of students from the college who utilized contacts to find their jobs. Now where do you think these personal and alumni connections were made? No doubt some were pre-established family connections, but other than that, the rest of them came from students’ networking efforts —actively seeking out, developing, and maintaining connections with professionals or people involved in their industry of choice.
The Indirect Connection
According to a study made a few years ago by human resource company Epic Development and Evaluation, almost 80% of available job postings are not openly advertised. With the high level of unemployment present today, a company will usually go to its employees first and ask them if they know anybody to fill an open spot. This gives businesses a vetted applicant pool, relieving them of the strain of going through the large number of qualified candidates who would have shown up if they had advertised publicly. This special pool is made up of people whom businesses know their employees trust, giving an additional incentive to hire them.
What does this mean for entrepreneurial students reading this?
The networks and contacts one develops over the course of college are valuable if not crucial assets for our careers – whether that means getting a job or getting guidance, funding or help on a start-up venture.
Sure, most of us have heard that networking is good for landing internships and jobs, but one overlooked fact is the impact that a well placed friend or mentor could have on one’s startup. A business major trying to set up a sophisticated website for his or her company could receive aid from a computer scientist friend in the engineering school. Physics majors could gain from English majors and vice versa – improving their ideas and product in the process.
In terms of mentorship and guidance, professors and faculty from different departments also have knowledge and contacts in their specific fields to aid students in their careers and ventures. When one has the opportunity to spend a few years in a university environment so rich with resources built to help students, it would be foolish not to maximize the experience.
Over the next few articles I will be detailing how Cornell specifically, with its professors, students, organizations, and other resources, can help the budding entrepreneur.
Based on research from a PDF at this URL. Due to University policy all PDF files that are not accessible cannot be linked to. http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/careerservices/postGrad/upload/ILR_bachelorTRIFOLD_FINAL_05112012