Career Advice: Schmoozing to Find a Job When in School

Published: Mar 10, 2009

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If you're still in school, you have golden schmoozing opportunities all around you. Many students forget that there are numerous people at their university who already know them and are predisposed to want them to succeed - their professors. If you think your history professor only knows about the French Revolution, think again. He's probably pretty savvy about life in this century as well.

Make sure you are on a first name basis with each and every one of your professors. Even if you're enrolled in huge lecture classes and can barely see the prof, figure out when his or her office hours are (hint: they'll be printed on the syllabus or posted on the office door) and go. Most professors only see students when they're begging for extensions on papers or explaining how they slept through the midterm. Your schmoozing will come as a welcome change.

Introduce yourself to your professor at the beginning of the semester. Tell them you're looking forward to taking the class, and if you're majoring (or thinking about it) in the subject, let them know that too. If you have any questions about something in lecture, or are curious about something you've read, ask. But make sure to ask non-class related questions as well. How did they get interested in sociology? What research are they doing now? Can they recommend any other good classes?

Because, after all, you ultimately want to get a job after you graduate, ask your professor for advice about that too. What have other students in his/her subject done after graduation? What does the professor recommend you do? You'd be surprised how many professors consult with companies part-time. If you're at a larger university, you might want to consider taking a class at your university's business or law school, as professors at professional schools often have an even wider variety of career contacts.


Other woefully underused routes to schmoozing for a job in school are career counselors and alumni. Career counselors want to help you get a job. That's their job. At the same time, they also have to find jobs for the other couple of thousand students at your university. But you, smart schmoozer that you are, have an advantage ? not all those students are going to bother to schmooze their career counselors. As early as possible in your school career, go to your school career center, introduce yourself and discuss your career goals. Thank your counselor for any particularly good advice or leads he gives you. Most students neglect career counselors until April of their senior year. Don't make the same mistake.

Alumni already have a point of similarity with you. Connecticut career counselor Ron Nelson points out, "Just having that little thing like a school connection takes you from 'Who the hell are you and why are you calling me?' to 'Oh, okay, you went to Vanderbilt too, what can I do for you?' It's not a big thing, but it's enough."

Tamara Totah, a headhunter for the Oxbridge Group in New York, also recommends using alumni contacts from your school, although she cautions that you should never directly ask them for a job. "The minute they hear that they get worried," she says. "Talk to them about what different opportunities may be available in the industry. People will spend 30 minutes with you. They know how tough it is."