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Make Those Connections: A Quick Obie Guide to Networking

March 21, 2018

Jason Hewitt ’20

"It's not about what you know, but who you know."

This phrase has been said to me at least one hundred times since I have been at Oberlin College. I have heard it said by fellow students, professors, coaches, relatives, etc. Many of whom have told me this phrase more than once. As annoying as that may seem, that phrase has been extremely helpful in my college experience as a whole. While it has been helpful, it is not entirely true. "Who you know" is NOT the quintessential tool that will immediately get you a job somewhere after you graduate, but it IS pretty important. 

With that being said, making connections is one of the best things you can do for yourself while you're at Oberlin. In my eyes, a connection is somebody who has the ability to help you ascend in your career. This could simply be a friend who knows somebody with influence in your career field. This could also be any alumni who would be more than willing to have you work for them in the near future. Even something as simple as getting to know your professor applies to making a connection.

The goal is to connect with people with the most influence to help you get where you want to go in your career.

It is essential to understand that while you are out there connecting with many different people, you must gain knowledge from them. The knowledge they have is often the most valuable trait you could receive from them, because you can ultimately use that knowledge to make wise decisions in both business and personal life. Learning more about your field is an especially important task to perform while you are in school for obvious reasons. The connections you make could be the best tool for you to learn more.

Build on the relationships you make with your connections!

Once you make a connection with somebody, that connection has an opportunity to stick around for the rest of your life. Why not use that grand opportunity to build on that relationship? The beauty of this is the fact that the relationship does not simply stop whenever you receive the knowledge and resources from the other person. That person still has the ability to help you out whenever you need it and vice versa. Perhaps the connection could transform into something much greater. It may develop into a deep lifelong friendship with that person, which is worth a LOT more than simply using someone to advance in your career.

While using relationships for personal gain may be beneficial, it is essential for you to keep pursuing that relationship in order to maintain the benefits. The benefits are not the end all, be all when it comes to making connections. The end all, be all of making a connection is to form a lasting relationship that benefits BOTH parties involved in the long run. This means that you should offer help to the other person if necessary. It could be something as simple as a small favor.

Do not forget that YOU have value as a connection to that other person. You have qualities that make you useful as well, and that could help boost your relationships with your connections immensely. Your connections will learn to trust in you over time if you continue to show them that you have qualities that are valuable to offer. Trust is one of the most important parts of not just making connections, but forming relationships in general. So go ahead. Help them out every once in a while. I promise you, it will be worth it. 

Do not be afraid to make connections. These people are human, just like you!

Making connections is a process that may come naturally to many college students. However, it is also a process that seems daunting to others. Fear is a very real emotion to deal with when it comes to networking. I mean, it makes perfect sense. Getting nervous to talk to people in high positions is a completely normal thing to go through. The goal, however, is to get past that in order to form that connection. I cannot say that this is going to be easy, because it is not an easy process for everyone to endure. Oftentimes, this is because of the sense of feeling unworthy to talk to these people. Get that idea out of your head. Every successful person had to start somewhere, right? It's like the famous quote: "Rome wasn't built in a day."

Don't allow the process to get too overwhelming!

Anxiety is an obstacle that limits people from getting where they want to be in their careers, and it definitely comes into play when one tries to network. This is my most difficult opponent to face at the moment. Once again, this is not an easy process for everyone to endure. Anxiety has the ability to limit what you are able to do in your career field, because it limits your ability to focus. That ability to focus enhances your aptitude when you are speaking to other connections. My suggestion to combat this beast called anxiety? Take your mind off of any aspect of networking that stresses you out. Take the time to relax or get into one of your hobbies. Talk to friends and family about it. Get some help from somebody if you feel the need to. It does not have to be professional help, but if that is what it takes, then do it. Your mental health is way more important than any connection you make in life.

Oberlin College has the resources to help you network.

Check this out. Oberlin actually has something that can help you fulfill your networking needs and desires. There is this place in Longman Commons (located in the Stevenson Dining Hall) called the Career Development Center. I inserted the link so that you can look at all the opportunities it offers students. This place is known to be extremely helpful to those who want guidance on what to do in order to advance their careers. Its programs and resources are more than capable of placing you in the best position possible to thrive in your career field. You could also discover new careers that you never realized you were interested in!

Not only does Oberlin College have the Career Development Center, it has brilliant professors and advisors who are more than willing to help you as well. To be honest, even the students here have the potential to be extremely valuable connections to have. There are so many intelligent minds in this place to connect with. That is one of my favorite things about Oberlin. The network here is phenomenal, and it has never failed me. I have made so many wonderful connections with the people at this school. Obies in general are very generous and they want you to get where you want to be in not only your career, but your life.

Yes, there are life-changing connections that have been and will continue to be made at Oberlin. I would not be where I am today if it wasn't for my professors, advisors, and fellow students who I've connected with over the last couple of years. I am grateful for the people I met here, and I am looking forward to making more connections with great people in the future. 

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