Is there really a debate?
“The richest people in the world look for and build networks, everyone else looks for work. Marinate on that for a minute,” tweeted American businessman and author, Robert Toru Kiyosaki. As founder of the Rich Dad Company, that seeks to spread financial awareness by using interactive games and videos, Kiyosaki constantly emphasises the value of personal and professional networks that an individual must build, from an economic give-take point of view. Sociology too, seconds this opinion in that intellectuals like Pierre Bourdieu spent years in emphasising the importance of interpersonal relationships. In his opinion, repect in a social network is a higher measure of power and social capital than economic status or bank balance. But what does this mean to the average college student, who spends the entire day tackling classes, research, extracurriculars and work, along with a hint of friends and familial pressures? Indeed, taking out time to nourish interpersonal and professional relationships can be physically and mentally taxing at the university level. In light of the same, students take to social networking sites to build these relationships and get access to career pathways. Afterall, it is much easier to communicate with a screen than a human being in real time. However, in this issue of TYV’s ‘Students Helping Students’ section, we are going to explore ways to effectively increase our social capital through networking.
How helpful is Social Media Networking?
Given that social Media networking is becoming so popular today, especially amongst younger generations, it is imperative to discuss the advantages that are associated with utilising the same. Platforms like LinkedIn help students post resumes, connect with professional employers, while also learning from other professionals in their field. At the same time, students can follow businesses and organisations for job postings, and to keep up with developments in their area of interest. Furthermore, energy today is spent on flyering and advertisements for most trainings (not only online trainings!) and certifications on the internet because that is where the majority of their audience tends to reside.
The biggest edge that social media networking provides to college students is the international perspective that it brings so readily. Apart from remaining in contact with friends and relatives in different cities to know what organisations they work with, students also gain access to a plethora of opportunities to learn via webinars from different corners of the world. For instance, a few weeks ago during my week-long Spring Break, I completed an online training via University of California, Berkeley’s 1947 Partition of India Archive, to become a citizen historian and then be certified to interview affected populations and document personal stories. Without such a well developed user interface and broadly advertised platform, I would have not been able to gain such easy access to this educational resource at my fingertips.
Traditional Networking is STILL a thing
But traditional networking is based on the premise that man is a social animal. In other words, for as long as communication has existed, our species has employed gestures, sounds, expressions, emotions and words to exchange thoughts and ideas. While certain expressions are community specific, folks have been able to transcend boundaries and establish personal, long lasting relationships. Indeed, this holds true even for college students because this allows them to share their stories with potential employers or mentors, while appealing to emotion. Across campuses, students are advised to go meet their professors and instructors, and engage in 1-1 conversations with them. Whether you want a recommendation letter or a thesis mentor, there is only so much you can express over an email. A few minutes into conversation however, the professional has a better chance of seeing a student showcase critical thinking and presence of mind in real time.
Moreover, given that soft skills are once again becoming popular in the workplace, 1-1 networking is a good opportunity to display oral communication, while learning even more about the job or the people you are talking to. What most students do not realise is that a job posting or an internship opportunity does not always look the same in real time as it does on the internet. Talking to professionals and asking them advice on the same however, can help you identify your personal strengths and weaknesses, while ensuring that you do not get overwhelmed, and that you go into a role that serves your interests.
Food for thought
From the student organisations, internships and research experiences that I have navigated as a college student, my personal recommendation is a mixture of both 1-1 networking and social media networking styles. Building an informative community online through Facebook groups, LinkedIn or Twitter communities is as valuable as catching a Saturday-afternoon coffee with your research mentor! As long as you remain proactive and passionate, you will stand out in your network for professionals on the web and those around you.