Navigating today’s struggling job market requires effectively leveraging your experience and networking with the right people, skills recent graduates say have proven invaluable early in their careers.
At the Kelley School of Business Indianapolis, networking and professional development remain a primary focus for students at both the undergraduate and graduate programs. Coupled with the value of the Kelley education, connecting on a personal level with influential people in their industry gives Kelley graduates an advantage when competing in a crowded field of job candidates.
“Networking with the right people is very important, not just networking,” said Travis Centers (BS ’08). “It’s not about being connected to 500 people on LinkedIn, but better to be connected to the one person that matters.”
Centers earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from Kelley Indianapolis. He currently works as a business development executive with Barrett Trade and Finance Group in Chicago. In his opinion, networking should be an ongoing process and an integral part of moving your career forward.
“Networking is invaluable in today’s job market. It’s what brought me to where I am right now,” said Krista Bontreger (BS ’10), who credits an innocuous conversation at a public event with leading to her current job as an event planner for Wea Creek Orchard in Lafayette, Ind. She has a degree in marketing and a certificate in event management.
“Networking is one of the most vital skills of successful people, irrespective of your profession,” said Mauri Miller, BS ’09. “No matter if your ultimate goals is one week away or ten years down the line, there are always opportunities to learn and grow with an extended network of people surrounding you.”
All three graduates began networking on the Kelley Indianapolis campus through student groups, where they perfected communication and project management skills.
Without similar experiences, new graduates will find a tough road ahead for their job search, according to Sherry Zike, assistant director of Kelley’s Career Planning Office. The students who appreciate the value of networking have the best chance at success, she said.
“Because of the far-reaching ability of online job postings, there are more applicants for every job,” Zike said. “Being able to meet someone in person, or having them referred to you from a trusted source, is a more effective way from the employer’s perspective to target the best applicants.”
National data supports her claim. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates nearly 80 percent of jobs today are the result of effective networking. With that in mind, the CPO continually hosts mock interviews, workshops and meet-and-greets with area employers.
Bontreger said she enhanced her networking skills through her work with student government and other campus groups. Centers started the campus Investment Club and participated in the Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity.
Now an alumnae of Kelley Indianapolis, Bontreger said she stills sees the importance of networking—only now it’s with fellow alumni with similar backgrounds.
“I have had countless experiences where I have encountered another Kelley grad with which I can share a bond that other students may not have had the chance to experience,” she said.
Centers said he looks forward to getting involved in networking and social opportunities with the strong Kelley alumni groups in the Chicago area.
“It’s not about the Kelley name but the people who make up the business school. That’s who will have a lasting impact on my life,” he said.