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Networking essential in job hunt, experts say

BY ARIANA WITT | APRIL 13, 2010 7:30 AM

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Kate Albrecht has never tried to get a job through employment listings.

Even when she was a student at the University of Iowa, she relied on networking to forward her career. Now, the 24-year-old, who graduated from the UI in 2008, works as a recruiter at RuffaloCODY, a Cedar Rapids-based fundraising company. And she’s relying on networking to find new employees.

“You don’t know what’s out there until you explore,” she said.

The UI Alumni Association and Iowa City Area Development Group welcomed roughly 30 former UI students to a more casual style of networking Monday. The “Networking Happy Hour” at the Vine, 39 Second St., Coralville, allowed university graduates to meet potential employees or employers in the local computer-simulation market.

“This is a great way to keep alumni connected to the community and make sure students stay involved with companies in the area,” said Christina Wright, an assistant director of the UI alumni program.

Charles Damschen, a patent attorney and 2007 UI law-school graduate, said the firm he works at doesn’t advertise. Its potential employees and its clients hear about the firm through word of mouth.

“The personal aspect is really important because you can build a rapport in a nonprofessional sense and move on to building trust in a more formal setting,” he said.

Damschen, 30, said networking is responsible for approximately 99 percent of business seen by his Davenport-based firm because of the low number of patent attorneys in the area.

While some students choose to search the newspaper’s want ads for their next job opportunity, others look to mingling as a way to enter the professional world.

UI alumna Stephanie Smith mingled at the Vine on Monday afternoon, hoping to find a job that would put her master’s in education to use.

She frequents networking events.

“I go to as many as I can because it can’t hurt to try,” she said.

Officials at the UI Pomerantz Career Center say networking should not be overlooked by current UI students.

“It’s the single most effective tool regardless of major or job interest,” said Garry Klein, the center’s director of program assessment and research.

He said students who develop networks can more easily find internships or general success in a short amount of time. Still, he estimates, only 15 percent of UI juniors and seniors take advantage of university-related networking opportunities.

Despite the popularity of online networking sites, Klein said he thinks face-to-face networking is the most effective way for students to make a lasting impression. Adapting to social networks such as Facebook may take time for some companies, and others may not be comfortable reviewing applicants online.

“Generally speaking, social networking can be used as a tool to generate face time with an employer, and that’s where you want to end up,” he said.

Damschen said he would never use his Facebook account to generate clients, though Albrecht uses her company account to advertise. The attorney feels in-person networking guarantees a more lasting connection with potential associates.

“If you can show people that you’re willing to put in the work — even if it’s just for five minutes — it makes all the difference,” he said.

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