Who Do You Know? Demonstrating Networking in a Careers in Psychology Course

Article excerpt

This study examined the effectiveness of a classroom activity designed to visually depict the ability of networking to increase potential job contacts. We implemented the activity in two sections of a Careers in Psychology course. Use of the activity resulted in significant increases in the number of potential networking contacts generated by students as well as in the anticipated emphasis given to networking as a job search tool. Evaluation data indicate that students enjoyed the activity and felt that it effectively demonstrated networking. As career advising becomes an increasingly important issue for psychology departments, developing techniques such as these that can help students facilitate their own career growth during and after college becomes especially valuable.

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Networking is an important component of career development (Kuijpers & Scheerens, 2006). Bolles (2005) describes networking as a job hunting tool that involves creating "a list of contacts now who might be able to help you with your career, or with your job-hunting, at some future date" (p. 170) and "establishing contact with people, as sources Of information, contacts, and referrals" (p. 29). Masikiewicz (1998) asserts that people typically have at minimum 250 network contacts and advises job seekers to "tell everyone you know about your interest in a particular field" (p. 18).

Networking is applicable to all career fields, including Psychology. Given that the most common career path for psychology majors is to pursue employment upon graduation (Borden & Rajecki, 2000), and that anywhere from 50% (jobweb.com) to 70% (Masikiewicz, 1998) of all jobs are obtained through networking, educating students about networking is essential to assisting them with their career pursuits. Furthermore, Hettich and Helkowski (2005) noted that today's college graduates will likely change employers and careers many times. In such a dynamic work world networking is a critical skill for effectively negotiating the job market. We implemented an activity in a Careers in Psychology course designed to demonstrate networking's potential to increase job leads while also focusing on the diversity of contacts that can comprise a job search network.

Method

Participants

The sample consisted of 73 (69.9% female) undergraduates with a mean age of 21.31 years (SD=3.12) enrolled in one of two Careers in Psychology course sections.

Materials and Procedure

We created a job-search network comprised of 22 contacts for the fictional student, "Yvonna B. Apsychologist." To illustrate the variety of contacts that can comprise a job-search network, we included a mix of contacts (e.g., professor, fellow student, hairdresser, brother-in-law). Each contact was listed on a piece of paper including names of other relevant people whom the contact knew (Figure 1). To make the activity maximally relevant, several contacts involved actual professors or local agencies.

On the day of the activity students completed a brief questionnaire: (1) If you were looking for a job after graduating with your bachelor's degree, what percentage of your search would you devote to each of the following resources (ratings should add to 100%)?: newspaper ads (in print or online), career websites (e.g., Monster.com), job postings on company websites, on-campus interviews, networking (generating job leads by making people you know aware that you are looking for a job), sending resumes to companies without knowing whether they have available positions, other (please indicate). (2) Imagine that you are graduating with your bachelor's degree and trying to generate job leads. List the people/resources you would tell you were looking for a job. Students could list people and resources by name, title (professor; Career Services office), and/or relationship (neighbor; Dad's golf partner).

I am Dr. Segrist, Yvonna's professor for Careers in Psychology. …