Networking event provides speedy advice to students

Marquette students mingled and connected with alumni during Tuesday's speed networking event at the Wisconsin Club.

Awkward greetings, firm handshakes and can’t-miss career advice all packed into a five-minute meeting. Marquette’s Career Services Center knows how to network.

Tuesday night, Marquette alumni from a variety of professional fields gathered at the Wisconsin Club to meet and counsel current students at Speed Networking 2010.  The event began with a speech about the power of networking by Karen Gill, a 1992 Marquette alumna.

Gill spoke about the history of her business: Karen Cooks It. Her love of cooking spaghetti dinners for friends in college led her to create her own personal chef business in 2004.

Gill talked about networking benefits and said she only attributes half of her business to “cold calls” and clients who discover her on the Internet. Gill said she owes the other half of her business to acquaintances she met through professional events in Milwaukee and social networking Web sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Every student should be networking with professionals and be a member of social Web sites, Gill said.

“Getting the things you want in life is all about the people you know and the relationships you build,” she said.

Following Gill’s speech, the approximately 75 students who attended Speed Networking were grouped in teams of two and paired with a professional. Much like speed dating, the students and alumnus talked for five minutes before the student pair moved on to the next person.

Career Services provided a list of pre-determined topics for discussion, such as the alumnus’ career history and Marquette experience.

Laura Kestner, the director of the Career Services Center, said the goal of Speed Networking was not necessarily to secure a job for every student who attended.

“The ultimate goal is for students to become familiar and more comfortable with the concept of networking,” Kestner said. “Also, we want students to make connections with people in the professional world and for students to learn how to interact at these events.”

Kestner said while there may not be professionals from every students’ specific field of interest at Speed Networking, it is still beneficial to meet everyone you can. According to Kestner, one student who attended Speed Networking last year was offered a summer internship after meeting a professional with connections in her field of interest.

Isaac Neher, a sophomore in the College of Business Administration, said he attended Speed Networking in order to meet alumni in the IT field, which he plans on entering.

“This probably will not directly get me a job,” Neher said. “But the practice of networking and talking to professionals couldn’t hurt.”

Michael Walsh was one professional who attended the event after receiving an e-mail invitation from Career Services. Walsh, the customer relations manager for Design House in Mequon, Wis., said he believes networking is critical in helping students decide what field they want to enter.

“I did a lot of volunteering when I was younger,” Walsh said. “And through the contacts I met, I was able to figure out what I wanted to do.”