When I went to New Student Orientation at Virginia Commonwealth University, one of the things highly recommended for students to do is network. I personally did not realize the benefit of networking until I was a junior in college. By the time you become a junior on campus, most people assume that you know your way around and you're fairly familiar with resources on campus. However, that may not be the case for transfer students or students that weren't as active in college during their first two years. But whatever the case may be, I strongly advise that students take advantage of the opportunity to network. Below is a list of items that I believe every student should own or have with them at all times to properly brand themselves.
1. A LinkedIn Account
LinkedIn is honestly one of my favorite social networks. I treat my LinkedIn like my email account meaning I check it every single day and as often throughout the day as I can. LinkedIn is one of the best social networks because it allows me to specifically connect with professionals within my career field of choice. Initially, when I created an account I was struggling with filling out the resume portion of my profile. It was that moment that I realized I needed more experience in my field because it didn't make sense for me to have several fast food jobs listed on my profile when I want to be a reporter.
In an effort to create an updated resume for my profile, I did connect with another individual in another organization I'm in. While talking to this individual, I learned a lot of tips for writing resumes and cover letters. I also got a professional headshot taken for the first time and it was a very fun experience. Since I have updated my profile, I have been able to connect with numerous professionals in the journalism field.
2. An Updated Resume
When I first came to college and heard about resumes, I wasn't concerned because I had both written resumes before and had several jobs prior to college. However, once I became a junior I realized I had barely any experience I could add to my resume that directly related to my major. That's where networking really came into play.
One of my biggest tips for networking, that I am still working on myself, is not to join a ton of organizations just to have them listed on your resume. Being a student is a full-time job and being a member of an organization, or being an officer in an organization, can be a full-time job as well. Being active on campus is cool until you become burnt out. I rarely make time for myself on campus and take a break from my work. However, I've noticed that whenever I'm swamped with too much work it makes my week go by faster and leaves less time for me to actually enjoy campus life.
3. A Business Card
Typically whenever I network with other students, I have found that most of them don't have business cards. I did not own one until I took a capstone class in which my professors bought business cards for my classmates and I. I also bought a business card holder, that I always carry with me in my book-bag, and I'm always cognizant when interacting with someone on a professional level to ask for their business card and give them one of mine.
Although phone books aren't used as much nowadays, I consider my business card holder a phone book. However, it's a phone book that consists of contact information for people that I have actually met in person.
4. Professional Clothing
While this one seems like a no brainer, being able to afford professional attire may not be possible for every college student. At VCU, students have access to the "Suit Yourself" closet at Career Services, where students are able to find dressy clothing and keep it. So I recommend checking to see if your college has a similar resource.
5. A Headshot
While it is not a requirement to have a headshot to create business accounts such as an account on LinkedIn, it is highly recommended. The quality is a lot better when you have a headshot taken professionally as opposed to doing it with your iPhone or Android. What I have noticed is that whenever I take images on my iPhone, although it may look clear on my phone, whenever I pull the image up on a desktop or laptop, it looks grainy. Furthermore, having your headshot taken with a DSLR camera looks a lot more professional than using a selfie.
In conclusion, I believe it's important for every student to have a LinkedIn account and if they aren't into social media, I believe it's important for students to be actively interacting with professionals within their career field of choice. Taking advantage of having so many professionals at your disposal while you're in college will certainly pay off in the long run. It's always a plus having multiple individuals you can use as a reference, instead of having to use a random person you interact with occasionally.