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Wednesday, August 17, 2022
The independent student publication of The Unversity at Buffalo, since 1950

A network of possibilities

'It's not what you know, it's who you know' – one of the most clichéd phrases in the English language is particularly valid when it comes to the art of the career quest.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics discovered that 70 percent of job hunters find new positions by tapping into their networks of friends, family members, and even acquaintances.

The time between when an organization conceives of the idea of a new job to the time when the opening is actually made public can be anywhere from a month to a year, according to Ed Brodka, senior career counselor for Career Services at UB.

'The goal of networking is making yourself known to an individual or organization so that they consider you for the position before it is even advertised,' Brodka said.

Through its partnership with the UB Alumni Association, Career Services has created an array of networking opportunities so students can leave UB with a wallet bulging with business cards.

Megan Pendergast, assistant director of part-time employment for Career Services, says the Mentor Network, which features nearly 600 professionals who represent a variety of career fields, is one of the best programs for students to utilize.

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'Students who are undecided in a career path or juniors who are looking for an internship can reach out to a mentor for ideas on the process,' Pendergast said. 'The goal is to build a relationship and build a network – not to directly reach out to a mentor and say, ‘I want a job.'

Adrian Rangl, a sophomore business administration and finance major, visited the UB BullsEye Web site in search of an internship, but said he found something much more valuable in the Mentor Network.

'I tried to get in touch with two mentors and one really helped me,' Rangl said. 'It took him only 10 to 15 minutes to respond to my e-mail and five days later, we sat down in Starbucks and he talked to me for three hours about his day-to-day job, his salary, what education he needed and his likes and dislikes about the job. Since I'm decided on the field I want to get into, he helped me know what to expect.'

Joe Andrade, who earned his B.S. in business administration from UB in 1987, now works as a financial advisor and has mentored over 100 students. He says he always stresses the importance of making connections to them.

'Networking is a skill that students will need every day. They will need it in their private lives, before and after UB, and in their jobs,' Andrade said. 'There is not one part of [students'] lives that cannot be improved by being an accomplished networker. [It] helps me every day, whether it is gaining more clients, more social capital, more connections, more friends, more opportunities, or more ways to help others.'

Although many students have become accomplished in social networking through Web sites like Facebook, Michael Stefanone, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication, says these sites will likely not lead students to future career contacts.

'The resources you're investing are going to be proportional to what you get out of them,' Stefanone, who specializes in social media, said. 'All of the opportunities that I've had have come from interpersonal communication outside of LinkedIn. None of the business I've done has come through Facebook. It's very simple – if it takes you two minutes to set up a profile, then you're not going to get much out of it.'

Realizing the crucial role face-to-face communication plays in creating relationships, Career Services and UBAA joined forces to present Career Conversations, a student-alumni networking event offered a few nights out of the year.

With upcoming events in Rochester and Albany on March 9 and 11, Patricia Starr, assistant director for volunteer and student programs with the office of Alumni Relations, says interested students can spend their spring break having career discussions and information-gathering with alumni in their related field.
For those already committed to spending next week on the beaches of Daytona or Cancun, UBAA offers ongoing programs to match alumni with current UB students.

'Dinner for 12 Strangers is a program where UB alumni host students, alumni and faculty in their home for a meal. The concept is simple: guests start off as strangers and leave as UB friends,' Starr said.

With the popularity of 12 Strangers, UBAA created UB Food, Alumni, and Networking (FAN) Mixers as the on-campus extension, where the Alumni Association hosts dinners for various departments within the university – but their goal is the same, according to Starr.

'Both UB FAN Mixers and Dinner for 12 Strangers are designed to connect UB students and alumni in an informal environment, foster networking and communities, and make UB seem like a smaller, friendlier place,' Starr said.

Brodka suggests that with so many diverse networking programs offered at UB, students need to be proactive in whichever action they choose to take – it's just like finding a date.

'Ask anyone how they met their significant other and they will tell you a story about how they went to a certain party or took a certain class or walked into a certain store, and that specific action down the road led to them meeting the person of their dreams,' Brodka said. 'So if you want to meet the people who will help you find your job, you have to do things that will bring you into contact with new people and new ideas. Get involved in campus activities, student clubs and community service opportunities. Approach someone who works in your field of interest and ask how you could help them on a project or upcoming event. The only way to discover what it is you really want to do is to just do something. Keep moving forward and before you know it, your dream job will find you.'

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