Smith student Philip Peker ’18 writes about Networking Day for freshmen at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, Feb. 19, 2016.
Is it ever too early to start networking? Depends on who you ask, but to the Smith Class of 2019, looks like the answer is no. As they strode into the room rocking crisp suits, polished shoes, and a half-nervous, half-excited smile, the freshman class was ready to get to work. On Friday, Feb. 19, freshman business school students participated in Networking Day as part of the Smith Start program. Smith Alumni and recruiters from companies like KPMG, Target, Macy’s, and more led the day with words of wisdom, entertained questions, and detailed the importance of starting to develop one’s professional pursuits early.
The students were split up into groups, and each group was designated to a certain hour of the day during which they networked with and listened to what the recruiters and professionals had to say about their companies, and what’s in it for the students.
Ray Ruiz, associate director of campus recruiting at KPMG, was very passionate about the event, and explained to me how important it is that these types of events happen often. “The fact that Smith has moved this event from a junior-level initiative to a freshman level, speaks volumes to the preparedness that the school expects of their students.” Smith has always been at the forefront of student career consciousness, and the push for this initiative is not slowing down. “We come to the Smith School for a reason; we know the value that the students bring to our firm. For example, we know that the accounting program here is one of the best in the nation. We know exactly what the Smith School does to prepare students to be individuals who we seek out.” Ray also had a handful of wise tips for freshman looking to improve their networking skills and make an impression from the onset. “Students must be unafraid to engage. Know how to have a real conversation about your goals and what you bring to the table. Be yourself, be genuine, but remember to not overstay your welcome!”
I had the opportunity to talk to Ashley Larsen, an executive team leader of human resources at Target. Ashley talked extensively on expectation, and how students should not come into a networking event with a closed mind. “You never know what you’re going to get when you walk into the door, so keep your eyes and ears open for all opportunities.” She mentioned how at the career fair, one freshman approached her booth and told her that he wants a job that is different every day. “Then Target is for you,” responded Ashley. Target’s diversity of career opportunities accommodates any and all majors as well as skillsets and passions. It was Ashley’s goal to communicate to the students that Target is much more than just a retail store; it’s a community of innovators, thinkers, doers, and people who are passionate about all sorts of fields.
The evening was a perfect mix of professional and relaxed. The students were engaging with the recruiters in more than just one way, but equally as important, the students were connecting with each other. “I went into the evening a bit nervous, but once you got into the groove, it became fun,” Daniel Simanovsky told me, a finance major and aspiring investment banker. “What I learned is to not always focus on engaging the recruiter if you’re in a group. It’s important to engage your fellow classmates, because it shows how well you work in a team.”
All these lessons and all these takeaways is what the recruiters hope to see when interviewing these students in the upcoming years. This continued synergy between Smith alumni recruiters and young students is what has propelled the Smith School through the ranks, and helps it maintain its competitive advantage.
For more information about the undergraduate program at Smith, visit: www.rhsmith.umd.edu/undergrad.