How to build connections for college and career success

The last two years have taught us two things:

  1. Anything that could be virtual was virtual.
  2. Some things shouldn’t be virtual … like relationships.

If you’ve lost the skill of networking—or never had it to begin with—San Jacinto College Student Engagement and Activities and Career Services offices are here to help. SEA offers social and leadership events to help you connect with your peers and campus staff, while career services offers job fairs, cover letter/résumé help, mock interviews, and more.

SEA specialist Ginnette Ruelas and career services coordinator Jennifer Cerda share how you can build connections for college and career success.

Q: Why should I focus on connecting/networking in college?

Spring Fling
Student clubs hosted booths at Spring Fling.

Ruelas: Connection stimulates your brain. You only know what you know. When you meet new people, you learn new things. A great way to meet people is to join our SEA organizations. Not only will you meet people who are interested in what you are, but they can connect you to others—even to a future job.

Cerda: Networking is a way of sharing different ideas and getting different people’s perspectives. You begin to realize you don’t have to stick to this general career you’ve been thinking of. There is a big job market out there. It really helps broaden your horizons.

Q: Why is in-person connection still important in a virtual world?

Ruelas: On Zoom, you can’t see body language. When communicating, people back up their words with body language. When students met with us online, they still had fun, but they missed that personal feeling of “Someone is legitimately listening to me. I can tell through their body language.” You get that in in-person events.

Cerda: It’s important to practice those in-person skills and know how to interact face to face because you never know what environment you’ll be placed in. What we’re noticing in any industry is employers want students to know how to communicate verbally and non-verbally.

Q: I’m an introvert. What ideas do you have?

Ruelas: We make our SEA events very casual—come and go. Start slow. Some people are like, “Get in there, get in there.” But attend a smaller event you’re comfortable with. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Then go to a bigger event next time. Invite a friend with you.

Cerda: Set small, manageable goals for yourself. For example, “I’m going to speak to at least three people at this event.” During career fairs, we’ll sometimes walk with shy students to different tables and help them ask questions. I notice after we break the ice they’re going to tables on their own. They feel more at ease.

Q: How will networking skills help me in my career and life?
Get Connected

San Jacinto College Student Engagement and Activities and Career Services offer events year-round for you to socialize and develop professional skills.

Learn more: sanjac.edu/engage or sanjac.edu/career-services

Ruelas: Be open-minded and listen when you’re networking. When you meet people, you don’t know what connections they may have. It’s a connection to another connection. Also, be present. Enjoy where you are right now because your life is always changing. Remind yourself: “This is a good time for me. I’m doing something for myself. It’s going to help me in the future.”

Cerda: When you network, you market yourself. Research shows 90% of open positions are filled because of networking. You can have a drastic change in your lifestyle because of a relationship you’ve built with someone else in the industry.

Respect the other person’s time, whether it’s a brief call or a scheduled meeting. Be on time. Following up is also important. Send a thank-you, happy birthday, or holiday message—keep up that relationship.