Expert Advice: How to Network Over Spring Break

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This article by  was written for Nerd Scholar and features networking advice from several academics, including Culpwrit.

Every year, students flock to popular spring break destinations such as Daytona Beach, Cabo, and Cancun. For them, spring break is a chance to blow off some much-needed steam away from their daily routine. But for students nearing the graduation finish line, spring break might actually be the last chance to make crucial networking connections before heading out into the real world.

Networking is a long process that involves building fruitful relationships over time; in other words, it doesn’t happen over night. Students should take advantage of any free block of time before graduation—like spring break—to develop relationships with industry professionals. Doing so can put you in a better spot to land that summer or full-time job down the road. To shed some light on how to go about this, NerdScholar asked university experts for their advice on how students can best leverage spring break to build their professional networks.

1. Talk with family members.

Students heading home for spring break should take the time to reconnect with family members, advises Ron Culp, a professor at DePaul University. They are typically your biggest advocates in the job search. Students should also seek out family friends and acquaintances that are recent college graduates, Dawn Edmiston, a professor at Saint Vincent College, says. These people “can provide the best insight on what to expect in an entry-level position on a daily basis.” By connecting with family and friends, you will expose yourself to a wide variety of industries and job titles.

2. Travel to cities you might want to work in after college.

Networking over spring break doesn’t necessarily mean you have to miss out on spending time in new and exciting places. For those interested in moving to a new city, spring break is the perfect opportunity to meet people who work in your preferred industry there. The best way to do this is to “schedule informational interviews with alumni, target employers and other contacts” in your desired metropolis, Donna Stein, a professor at Syracuse University, says.

Still, the thought of traveling for the sake of meeting professional contacts can seem daunting. Networking is already a challenge if you are unsure of your career path, let alone identifying specific people in a foreign place who will be willing to carve out time to talk to you. But it is important to remember that networking requires “a willingness to move outside of your comfort zone by meeting new people and letting your professional relationships develop over time,” says Isaiah Pickens, a professor at John Jay College.

3. Don’t discount volunteering.

Students beginning the job hunt typically overlook the benefits of volunteering. In fact, volunteering is “one of the most effective ways to build connections,” Pickens says. Spring break provides the perfect time to devote yourself to such projects in your community or abroad. For instance, many universities and student-run organizations offer opportunities to spend spring break volunteering elsewhere, typically referred to as “alternative spring breaks.” Such trips are not only eye-opening and personally rewarding experiences, but they are also great resume boosters for graduating seniors. Volunteering will open doors to new networks of people who can “potentially mentor and support your career goals,” says Pickens. Ellen McMahon, a professor at the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, adds that it is important for all students to network outside of their regular circles. According to McMahon, “professional organizations and local business events also offer wonderful opportunities to build strong networks.”

4. Take advantage of career center resources.

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