Make the Connection

Building your network to aid in career exploration and professional development is important during your time at the University of Michigan-Flint. Meeting new people provides opportunities to acquire information on career paths, industry trends, and skills in demand. Networking gives students a competitive edge on the job market and long-term success in their careers. 

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Most students engage in networking all the time without realizing it. Networking takes place in structured and unstructured environments in the following forms:

  • Meeting with faculty and staff or with academic/career advisors
  • Attending events when employers are present, such as career fairs, conferences, or workshops
  • Engaging with peers in class or attending student organization events
  • Posting messages on social media websites
  • Volunteering for a community service event 

Below are some ways the Office of Student Career Advancement & Success can assist you with making the connections: 

Conduct Informational Interviews

An informational interview is a conversation between you and a professional in a particular field or industry you are interested in. It’s an opportunity for you to gain information and insights into the industry, company, job, or career path that you are exploring. During an informational interview, you can ask questions about the person’s education and training, career path, skills required, and the industry’s future outlook. It’s an excellent way to learn more about a field or industry, clarify your career goals, and make valuable connections with professionals.

During an informational interview, asking relevant questions is essential to better understand future opportunities. Here are a few questions you could ask during an informational interview:

  • What inspired you to pursue this field or career path?
  • What skills and competencies are essential for success in this field?
  • What are the primary responsibilities of your job?
  • What challenges do you face in your job, and how do you overcome them?
  • How do you see this industry evolving in the coming years?
  • What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in this field?
  • Are there any specific courses, certifications, or training programs you recommend?
  • Can you speak about the company’s culture and overall work environment?
  • How do you balance your work and personal life?
  • What do you think sets successful professionals in this field apart from others?

Here’s what you can typically expect to find in an informational interview:

  1. Conversation: Informational interviews are typically conducted in a conversational format. They are more relaxed and informal compared to formal job interviews.
  2. Information gathering: The interviewee, who usually has experience or expertise in the field or company you’re interested in, shares information, insights, and experiences related to the industry or profession. They provide valuable knowledge and perspectives to help you make informed decisions about your career path.
  3. Questions and answers: As the interviewer, you have the opportunity to ask questions and seek specific information based on your interests and goals. The focus is on learning from the interviewee’s experiences and gaining insights into various aspects of the industry, such as job responsibilities, required skills, career progression, work environment, challenges, and opportunities. 
  4. Networking: Informational interviews are a great way to expand your professional network. While the primary purpose is to gather information, these conversations can also help you establish connections with professionals in your desired field. Building relationships and maintaining contact with industry experts can be valuable for future opportunities.
  5. Advice and guidance: The interviewee may advise on career development, skill-building, educational requirements, and other relevant aspects. They can offer insights into navigating the industry, share resources for further learning, or suggest other professionals to connect with.
  6. Professional etiquette: Even though informational interviews are more informal, it’s important to maintain a professional demeanor. Show respect for the interviewee’s time, actively listen, and express gratitude for their insights. Additionally, it’s a good practice to follow up with a thank-you note or email to express your appreciation for their time and guidance.

Remember, informational interviews are not intended to ask for a job directly but to gain knowledge and guidance and make connections in your desired field.

Participate in Job Shadow

Job shadowing is when an individual, typically a student or someone new to a particular field or occupation, observes and follows a professional or experienced worker during their regular workday. It is a form of experiential learning that allows the individual to gain insights into a specific job or industry’s daily responsibilities, tasks, and overall work environment.

During a job shadowing experience, the person observing, often referred to as a “shadow,” accompanies the experienced professional throughout their workday, observing their actions, interactions, and decision-making processes. The shadow typically does not actively participate in the work but focuses on observing and learning from the experienced individual.

The purpose of job shadowing is to provide the shadow with a firsthand understanding of the job or career they are interested in. It allows them to see how theoretical knowledge and skills translate into practical applications within the workplace. Job shadowing can help individuals make informed career decisions, gain industry-specific insights, understand the expectations and requirements of a particular job, and establish connections with professionals in their field of interest.

Job shadowing experiences can vary in length, ranging from a few hours to several days or weeks, depending on the arrangement between the shadow and the professional. It is often an unpaid or voluntary arrangement, although some organizations may offer formal job shadowing programs or internships with structured schedules and compensation.

Overall, job shadowing provides a valuable opportunity for individuals to explore different career paths, gain exposure to real-world work settings, and make informed decisions about their future career choices.

  1. Identify the career or industry you are interested in.
  2. Research companies in that industry and identify one or several you would like to job shadow.
  3. Reach out to the company’s HR department or the person you would like to shadow, and explain your interest in job shadowing.
  4. Set a date and time for your job shadowing experience.
  5. Prepare questions to ask during your job shadowing experience to understand the company and the job better.

Remember to dress appropriately for the occasion, arrive on time, and respect the company’s rules and regulations. Good luck with your job shadowing experience!

Make the most of your job shadow by Asking the Questions

Join LinkedIn 

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional social media platform, designed to help you share information about yourself and learn about other people, companies, and schools. 

LinkedIn resources for students
Connect with UM-Flint alumni to learn more about their career paths and experiences. The Office of Student Career Advancement has a growing LinkedIn group that students can join to connect with other alumni.  In addition, you can learn about many events and activities with alumni that you can attend. If you are planning to relocate or are looking for an internship in a particular region, researching companies, internships, and job opportunities on LinkedIn is a useful resource.