LinkedIn is an amazing tool for your professional life. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, get one (check out university.linkedin.com/linkedin-for-students for help). LinkedIn is a great way to build and maintain your network – more on that later – but it’s also a great research tool.
1. USE LINKEDIN TO EXPLORE CAREER PATHS AND BUILD YOUR NETWORK
Use the LinkedIn alumni tool to check out what other people from your major are doing with their lives: linkedin.com/edu/alumni
This filters all of LinkedIn for anyone listing the University of Arizona in the education section of their profile. Add additional filters for graduation date, industry, location and keywords.
Are you a marketing major interested in entertainment jobs in Los Angeles? Filter for UA alumni in marketing in Los Angeles, and add the keyword “entertainment.”
Then investigate the career paths of other people with your educational background. Find someone with a job you might like and see how they got there from the UA. Where did they intern? What was their first job title? What skills do they say they have? This is a great way to start understanding your options.
And while you’re on LinkedIn, begin connecting with people. Start with your fellow Wildcats. Look around that big Gen Ed class in Social Sciences 100. Some of your classmates are going to be superstars one day (for real). Get to know them and get them in your professional network while you can.
This is a golden opportunity for you to build your network. You’re surrounded by some of the smartest people around right now. Get to know your fellow students, your faculty, your TAs, the grad students in your department. You may never have this many diverse and brilliant rising stars in one place again!
It’s important to get these people in your LinkedIn network right now – because of course, the best network is a Wildcat network.
2. Come to alumni career events
UA departments, colleges, clubs and organizations hold career events featuring UA alumni on a regular basis. Take advantage of this! These events are a great way to learn about a career area, meet professionals with real-world experience in your field, and network with other students with similar interests. And you’re almost guaranteed some free food!
Don’t go into these events expecting a job or internship offer – but it can happen. I’ve seen those connections get made!
You can also take these opportunities to get inspired by some of the most high achieving UA alumni. Check out the UA Alumni Career Lab’s Cats in the Corner Office series. We livestream interviews with high-profile alumni straight to YouTube.
3. Join Student Alumni Ambassadors
Student Alumni Ambassadors (SAA) is a student club that connects students to Wildcat alumni and celebrates UA traditions. It’s a great way to meet current students (there are over 500 members!) and an even better way to meet alumni.
SAA holds networking events throughout the year that give students the opportunity to meet alumni in a variety of career areas. They do speed networking, industry-based networking, networking events with specific companies, social networking – you name it.
If you’re shy about networking, SAA would be especially valuable. SAA also holds workshops on networking, an etiquette dinner, a “Dress for Success” fashion show (exactly what does “business casual” mean, anyway!?), and other professional development events that will prepare you to get the most out of your UA network. Find out more here: arizonaalumni.com/saa
4. Conduct informational interviews with alumni through the Wildcat Career Network
An informational interview is when you talk with someone with a career you’re interested in to learn more about their job and the industry while building your network. This is a crucial way to know if a career is a good fit for you, what to expect from the job market and how to be a competitive candidate.
My own career has been shaped by a single informational interview I did with a fellow Wildcat. Back in the day, during my quarter-life crisis when I had a job I didn’t like, I told a colleague that I was interested in university fundraising and alumni relations. She put me in touch with a friend of hers, a UA alumnus and an amazing fundraiser at the UA. He agreed to sit down and tell me a little about his career. We got to know each other and a few months later, when an alumni relations and fundraising job opened up on campus, he recommended me for it. The rest is history.
How do you find someone to interview? Use the Wildcat Career Network!
This is our new online career advice platform. Over 500 UA alumni in all kinds of industries have signed up to be career resources to fellow Wildcats. Register, find interesting alumni, and reach out for a career conversation here: career.arizona.edu/networking
Before your conversation, have a list of questions prepared. If you need help deciding what to ask, just Google “informational interview questions” for lots of ideas. For example, ask how they got started in the field, what their typical day is like, what they like most and least about their job, what skills they look for when they hire and what professional development resources they use.
Informational interviews are a great way to learn something and build your network at the same time. They’re not about getting a job. Never ask for or expect to get a job from an informational interview, but if you’re polite, respectful and genuinely interested, you might make a connection that pays off down the road.
And always, always thank your connection for sharing their time and expertise. A handwritten note will go a long way in making someone happy they met with you.
5. Help your fellow Wildcats out
Lastly, remember that we’re all in this together. As Wildcats, we all hold stock in the University of Arizona. As UA's reputation improves through the successes of its students and alumni, the value of a UA degree goes up. So we should all be rooting for each other's success. You increase the value of your own degree every time you help another Wildcat make a career connection, get a job or advance their career!
When you invest a little time to help fellow UA students or alumni, you're investing in your own community, your own degree, and your own career. Help connect your classmates with people you know, share job leads with each other, send interesting articles to an alumnus that would find it valuable and when the time comes and you’re the superstar alumnus or alumna, come back to the UA and recruit a summer intern or new grad for your organization.