I am never too surprised when my friends come up to me and ask, “How do you network?” Networking isn’t something everyone feels initially knowledgeable about or comfortable with. In that moment, I always say that they are always networking, no matter what they are doing or where they are. To make it easy, let’s start with what the definition of what networking is. Networking is the skill of adding people of interest to your contacts with the intention of maintaining some type of relation over time. Let’s say, for instance, you are at a Greek event, casually talking to a brother or sister about any subject that you both find relevant…you are networking. You want this person to know more about you and you want to know more about this person with the hopes of developing a stronger relationship.
Let’s start with a real life example involving the use of an incredible tool available to all Union students, called the Union Career Advisory Network (UCAN). UCAN connects current students to information on over 10,000 Union alums which helps undergraduates network and learn about potential career fields. When I signed up and was granted access to UCAN, I was actually overwhelmed by how transparent alumni information was on the system, providing students with a detailed description of each person, what they do now and what they did when they were students at Union. So when I had to choose an alumnus to write about in the Concordiensis (the School newspaper) I used UCAN, and it felt like the Google of networking. I decided to write about Matt Baumgartner ’95, the founder of Bomber’s Burrito Bar and several other restaurants in the NY state area. When I opened Matt’s profile, it gave information on his major (economics) and on his extracurricular activities (Sigma Chi) along with current employment information. After reviewing his profile, the next step was to send him an email through the UCAN database, asking if he would be willing to with me about an article I was writing for the Concordy. I won’t lie; it’s quite intimidating sending that first email to a person you never met before and you’re asking them to basically do you a favor.
My approach to connecting with this alum was to sound humble, but straightforward in what I was asking of him- to speak with me about an interview for the school newspaper). After sending my message, it wasn’t surprising that I received a reply from Mr. Baumgartner within 24 hours. Mr. Baumgartner provided me with his phone number and we exchanged text messages to coordinate a time and date for the official interview on campus. When you finally meet the alumni you’ve reached out to and have firmly shaken his actual hand, then you can call yourself a UCAN stud, but not quite a master. The next step in the process would be to continue to maintain a positive relationship with that individual after you both met. In my situation, after I wrote Baumgartner’s article, I followed up with him, sending a copy of the article to get his insights. I kept him updated with what I was doing, which is what many professional associates love to see. After I got a reply from him stating, “I love it love it love it!!!” I knew I had a positive and firm connection with the man I honored in the school newspaper. Not to mention that Matt bought Bombers for my friends and me later on, just a small but very cool perk of networking!
Another example of networking was when a friend of mine wanted to live in his Minerva. My friend is a great guy, who would be a great addition to his Minerva, the only problem is that he’s never been to any meetings or events that his Minerva has hosted. So basically his chances of getting housing without involvement were slim to none. Because I was good friends with the house manager and council members at his Minerva, I was able to introduce him to these people and let my friend take it from there. As it turns out, after talking that Saturday night for about an hour, the members of the Minerva decided to offer him housing. What does this say about the power of networking? Well, in the networking world, having mutual friends vouch you’re your interest and abilities can lead to awesome opportunities!
Of course, many of you may be wondering how you can use UCAN to advance your career rather than form relationships with past graduates. If you remember the point of networking, you’ll know the benefit is forming a great network that could be beneficial to you at any given point. Having a more diverse network with strong relationships can increase your chance of achieving your career goals. To give you an example of this process, I’ll tell you about my how I utilized networking to search for an internship for this summer.
As most of you should know, Devin Wenig, the CEO of eBay, is a 1988 alum of Union College. Not only was I connected to him via the alumni network at Union, I also interned at Tradweb Markets last summer, the same place where Mr. Wenig started his career. Having made good connections with my co-workers (another form of networking) who knew Devin well, encouraged me to reach out! At first thought it was a little crazy, contacting the CEO of a company I wanted to work for- not to mention as a first year student! But because I had MANY connections with this union graduate AND was able to connect to him through the UCAN database, I decided to go for it. Employing the same strategy as before, I wrote a humble email outlining why I was reaching out, what our commonalities were, and asked if he had time to speak with me. I received a reply within 24 hours, but not from Mr. Wenig, rather the Head of Recruitment of eBay. She asked me to send my credentials and set up a time to speak briefly over the phone. After a few days of back channeling, I was officially offered a position at eBay’s New York City office. I was definitely extremely happy knowing I had a position waiting for me this summer and amazed at the power of networking. Though I wasn’t able to speak with Devin Wenig directly, I was able to make a strong impression which resulted in an internship offer. I’m still hoping to speak with Devin Wenig himself, but I guess that’ll come with time.
I hope from these scenarios you are able to see the benefit of being a productive networker, not only on UCAN but in whatever you’re doing at any given time. When you’re at a Minerva event, at the school cafeteria, or at a career fair, always be aware of opportunities to meet someone new because you never know where that’ll take you next. The world becomes a much smaller place when start to connect with people and being a part of a dynamic campus community, like Union College, definitely helps. I think it is important to note that when you are formulating relationships, never abuse it, be humble and maintain connections. Don’t expect people to do for you if you are not willing to put the work in! You’ll find that the more you network, the easier it becomes, so keep being productive, be resourceful and just be a good person, that’s my advice.
Jake T Kim ‘19