Business students make connections with speed networking

February 15, 2012

Iboni Borden-Pittman is no stranger to networking. So when she had only six minutes to create an indelible initial impression, she made it count.

The Indiana State University senior from Zion, Ill., majoring in management information systems, participated in two previous events hosted by the Center for Student Professional Development (CSPD) before attending a speed networking session offered earlier this month in the Scott College of Business.

This was the first year for the speed networking event, which included nearly 25 business students and 20 industry professionals from around the region, some who serve dual roles as members of the Scott College of Business Young Professionals Board. Students were given six minutes to connect with each professional, a personal environment that Borden-Pittman appreciated for the one-on-one conversations.

"When it's the first time, you're nervous. You don't know what to expect," she said. "[Now] I'm prepared. I know what to bring to the table; I know what questions to ask."

Maria Greninger, director of external relations for the Scott College of Business, acknowledged the importance of connecting students with Young Professionals Board members.

"These Young Board members give the students real examples of success and the ISU experience so they can better see themselves in these positions a few years down the road," said Greninger.

Allison Harper, a junior insurance and risk management major from Terre Haute, also enjoyed the initial speed networking event.

"All the professionals that were involved in my room were very open to helping and very open to giving us suggestions and ideas on how to integrate your minors and majors into what you wanted to do," Harper said. "They definitely gave you a lot of career options, and they were also great at making you feel comfortable."

Dan Gmelich, vice president of corporate banking for Old National Bank and a member of the Young Professionals Board, attended the speed networking to help the students.

"Eleven or twelve years ago, I was in the same position - looking for jobs, looking for direction, looking for anybody that would listen," said Gmelich, who graduated from the Scott College of Business in 2001. "Being a little bit removed from that and being in the community, I always find it enjoyable to be able to talk to people and answer any questions. Really it's just about making yourself available to maybe help somebody else's job search go a little bit easier."

April Huey, senior financial analyst at Indiana University Health and Young Professionals Board member, participated in the networking as a form of service.

"It's important to give back to organizations you're passionate about, and when I think back to my experience here at ISU, something that was very important to me was to get to meet industry professionals and prepare for my future career," said Huey, who graduated from ISU in 2007. "I think it's important that I come back and give the students the same opportunities that I had to help them prepare, so we can have a better business world as a whole."

Positive responses from the speed networking encouraged Kimberly LaGrange, director of the Center for Student Professional Development.

"Clearly, the students take away valuable advice and insights from the professionals, and we consistently hear comments from the professionals regarding how much they enjoy the enthusiasm and energy of the students," said LaGrange.

The goals of the event were to create an opportunity for students to learn from professionals and also to help students develop business communication skills. Harper said the event served as practical application of those skills.

"You need to be prepared," Harper said. "If you go into a job interview, you need to know a little bit about the company that you're interviewing for. You can't just walk into an interview blind. This has definitely allowed us to learn how to prepare."

Participating professionals expressed the value of developing those skills while still in college, rather than when the job search begins.

"It's important in college because you don't have to go through that awkward phase when you first start a job," Huey said. "I think it's important to learn it when it's not so vital to your career."

Gmelich advised students to gain experience in interpersonal situations through working as a restaurant server or in retail to practice one-on-one interactions and negotiations.

"It's so critical because I think the better that you are in just talking to people in general, the better it's going to help you in anything you do," Gmelich said. "The better you are developing interpersonal skills early, it's a huge advantage."

As a student who regularly participates in CSPD events, Harper recognizes the value in taking advantage of networking and professional development opportunities.

"All the CSPD events that are put on are beneficial, and they need to be attended. They're there to help you," Harper said. "[An event like this] definitely opens up your eyes and gives you so many resources to professors here or to the CSPD. It opens up your world, and there are so many people out there willing to help you that you don't know are there unless you go out and find them."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/College-of-Business-Speed/i-M4LGCdX/0/L/020212speednetworking-4154-L.jpg

Several students participate in the speed networking event created by the Center for Student Professional Development at Indiana State University.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/College-of-Business-Speed/i-WcKLWdN/0/L/020212speednetworking-4052-L.jpg

Students participating in the speed networking session. Students were given six minutes to connect with each professional participating in the event.

Contact: Kimberly LaGrange, director, Center for Student Professional Development, Scott College of Business, Indiana State University, 812-237-2102 or kimberly.lagrange@indstate.edu

Writer: Mallory Metheny, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773