Employer Networking Through Your College

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Don’t be surprised but your college or university Career Services Department is very likely to have some of the best opportunities for you to meet and impress employers. These are often the kind of opportunities that can lead to an internship or a first job. The first thing to do is follow their calendar of events. Most colleges will publish events and opportunities online or via an email newsletter.

There are many other valuable resources on campus to help you connect with employers and internship opportunities. Ask your academic counselor and professors for guidance, because many of them have wonderful relationships and advice.  For example, some professors have developed relationships with local industry experts who are also classroom speakers.

Read on for specific tips on how to meet prospective employers at or through your college:

On-Campus Recruiting and Career Fairs

Many schools have job and internship fairs or “career days.  The employers may be alumni connections or representatives from local companies. There is a Big 10 Career Expo in the Midwest that attracts employers, students and alumni. Michigan State and some other schools sponsor Diversity Career Fairs.  Cornell University sponsors Nonprofit and Government specific career fairs.

Employer Info Sessions

Check your college Career Services calendar for scheduled employer information sessions.  Register early to get a spot. Treat the information session like an interview or career fair opportunity. You will have the chance to hear the employer speak about the company and their internship program. After the info session, the employer will answer questions from students. The employer representative will usually also mingle and network after the event.

Additional Employer Networking Events and Programs

Look closely at all the events that are available at or through your college or university. Many of them will provide you access to interesting employers.  Every school is different, but consider these additional types of programs as potential opportunities to network with employers:

  • Externship, Winternship, or Job Shadowing
  • Employer Tour; Open House or Workshop
  • Diversity Fair or program
  • Industry specific Fairs or programs
  • College sponsored speakers on campus
  • College sponsored speakers in your home town
  • Alumni events
  • Campus volunteer or sporting events
  • City career fair ( multiple colleges and employers in a specific city)

 College networks and special associations

Some colleges are affiliated with college networks or consortiums that can be important to your internship search. Know what networks your school participates in and what the benefits are to you. The Liberal Arts Career Network (LACN) is a consortium of  35 highly selective liberal arts colleges. LACN has a job and internship database. Other networks include the NIC ( National Internship Consortium) which includes 17 liberal arts colleges and UCAN ( University Career Action network) of 20 national colleges and universities; and i-Net which is comprised of 11 highly selective universities.

Regional Internship Consortiums and Programs

Ask your Career services if they have any regionally based internship opportunities. For example, there is a program called “Summer on the Cuyahoga” which is a wonderful immersion experience which includes challenging internships. Students are paired with alumni from their particular school for the summer. Group housing is provided. Participating schools include; Case Western Reserve, Colgate, Cornell, Ohio Wesleyan, Smith, University of Chicago and Yale. Another great example comes from Barnard College. The New York City Civic Engagement Project ( NYCCEP) provides opportunities for Barnard students to participate in local NY internships and community service programs.

You can find most of the special associations and consortium opportunities right on your Career Service’s web page.  Most of the job listings on these databases are high quality because employers are specifically interested in students from these particular colleges and universities.  These consortium opportunities are usually in addition to your college’s own internship and job database.

Online Networking with Employers and Alumni

Look for virtual career fairs and online networking groups. Alumni are valuable connections for college students and new grads. Many of them are the college or university’s best employers. Stay in touch with alumni through your school’s LinkedIn groups. Some college’s alumni offices provide online networking and advice portals. At Middlebury College, alumni advice is provided through the “MiddNet”.

Prepare to Meet Employers

When meeting employers in person or online, ask yourself these questions in advance:

  • What can I learn ?
  • Who can I meet ?
  • How do my skills and interests match up with this employer’s needs?
  • How can I prepare in advance so I will get the most out of it ?
  • How can I prepare in advance to show my interest and expertise?
  • What are my best follow up strategies?

Do your homework up front. Identify those employers and opportunities that are a great match for you. Then jump right into those employer networking opportunities your college or university offers. The very best way to make the networking work for you is to have a strategy that includes excellent follow up. What other ways does your college or university connect you with employers?

Sandra Long

Sandra Long is the author of the bestselling book LinkedIn For Personal Branding: The Ultimate Guide. She is also the managing partner of Post Road Consulting LLC. Sandra and her team work with corporations, universities, and individuals to drive successful sales, career, and talent acquisition results.


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