Let networking work for you


College of Agriculture and Life Sciences students attended the CALS Career Day on Oct. 8 to network with potential employers.

Cameron Karn

Networking is a key factor in finding a job or internship, but sometimes it can have negative connotations for being intimidating or seemingly transactional. At its core, however, networking is simply about making meaningful connections with others through conversation.

Networking is not something that only takes place between industry leaders and CEOs of major companies. Angela Wagner, the career education coordinator for Liberal Arts and Sciences Career Services, recommends students start networking by chatting with fellow students, professors and advisers. 

“Maybe it’s just turning to the person next to you before class and asking how their day is going,” Wagner said. “Really small and meaningful conversations can lead to valuable relationships and connections.”

The hardest part of any interaction is starting the conversation. After that, it is much easier to keep the ball rolling. Wagner recommends students keep three to five “magic” networking questions in the back of their head to help initiate friendly discussions. These are just open-ended questions ranging from “What do you think about the event so far?” to “Where are you from?”

Wagner’s number one tip is simply to be genuine and confident. 

“Just be yourself,” Wagner said. “You aren’t going to get across who you truly are if you are too nervous or if you are trying to be something you’re not.”  

Students should try to be relaxed and have fun when meeting new people. For more introverted people, Wagner recommends asking more questions. Most people like to talk about themselves so the person asking the questions can play more of a listening role than a speaking role.

Career fairs are a massive opportunity to not only network with high-profile professionals, but to practice and gain experience in networking skills. Meeting professionals face to face is invaluable for making connections and providing future opportunities. Iowa State hosts six career fairs this semester in the fields of engineering, design, business and industry, health and law, education and communications. All students are encouraged to attend, even those who are not currently job searching.

When attending a career fair it is vital to show up fully equipped, mentally and physically. Wagner said one of the most common mistakes students make when networking is lacking the necessary preparations. Students who do not adequately prepare will struggle with confidence in their interactions, which likely leads to poor results. Important career fair preparations include bringing at least fifteen copies of a resume in a pad-folio, researching organizations that are attending and rehearsing a 30 second introduction.

LinkedIn is one of the largest social networking platforms online and a valuable tool to build connections with people you cannot meet in person. Professionals and recruiters in every field use the site to connect with other professionals and find new employee candidates. A great place to start is messaging Iowa State alumni from your field of study.

Each college at Iowa State has their own career service specialists that are ready and willing to aid students in need of networking assistance. From career planning to resume reviews to practicing elevator pitches, Iowa State career services can help.