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Making Career Connections that Count

November is National Career Development Month! This annual campaign from the National Career Development Association (NCDA), encourages reflection on what you are doing to reach your career goals. How strong is your professional network? My emphasis this year is all about making professional connections.

Perhaps you've heard the old saying "it's who you know." The power of networking is alive and well as a job search strategy, especially in a time of high unemployment, but it can also make a big difference in career exploration and decision-making. Whether you are trying to choose a major or get a promotion, strengthening your career connections should be part of your plan.

Find Scheduled Events

A variety of organizations support National Career Development Month, but your career center is a great place to start. Students and alumni can take advantage of resources provided by the career professionals working at their schools (and many of the services available are notoriously underused this time of year, as we approach the holidays and the end of the traditional Fall semester.)

Consider participating in some of the activities taking place this month and reaching out to other attendees as potential members of your network. Here are a few examples of what you can expect:

  • University of Maryland University College features online and on-campus events including live webinars, employer fairs, and more.
  • The University of Kansas's Career Center website announces special events for students, as well as a list of "staff picks," a variety of multimedia presentations on a range of employment topics.
  • The University of South Alabama has scheduled walk-in "career check-ups" for students interested in getting a quick review of their progress in career planning.
  • Virginia Tech supports the annual celebration with t-shirts for students. Thanks to their employer sponsors, this a great way to not only share career information, but also show school spirit.

Note that many of these activities directly involve employers as sponsors and participants, offering students with an informal way to connect with company recruiters and learn more about career opportunities.

Keep Your Career Goals in Mind

Networking isn't just about finding a job. It's also a critical component of career exploration, planning, and management. As part of your recognition of National Career Development Month, think about how making new connections can help you with the following objectives, all of which are part of the larger NCDA Career Development Framework:

  • Attain educational achievement and performance levels needed to reach your personal and career goals.
  • Participate in ongoing, lifelong learning experiences to enhance your ability to function effectively in a diverse and changing economy.
  • Create and manage a career plan that meets your career goals.
  • Integrate changing employment trends, societal needs, and economic conditions into your career plans.
  • Integrate growth and change into your career development.
  • Balance personal, leisure, community, learner, family, and work roles.

Keep New Connections Going Strong

Whether the connections you make this month take place online or in person, they can help you make decisions and prepare for whatever is next on your career path. But adding new people to your network is just the first part of really connecting.

After meeting, making introductions, and exchanging contact information, you'll need to take action to turn these connections into conversations. Follow up initial meetings with email and phone calls, and look for ways to extend the connection through social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter.

November 12th through 16th is officially National Career Development Week. Take this opportunity to think about your career goals and add at least one networking activity to your schedule. How will you make a connection that counts?

Image credit: westconn, Flickr, CC:BY-ND