On the night of Jan. 23 at 6:30 p.m., John Hottinger, the Associate Director of the Dolan Career Development Center hosted a networking workshop in the Charles F. Dolan School of Business. 

Life@Fairfield advertised the event as, “A networking workshop geared towards students understanding the dynamics of networking; alumni reach outs, the merits of doing informational interviews or job shadows, understanding what an Elevator Pitch is and proper email communication. This event will tie into how students can conduct themselves when meeting alumni in the January 30 Undercover Alumni event.”

Around 40 students filled the classroom on the second floor of DSB, and all but one of the students were business students. Hottinger explained that the purpose of the presentation was to share some tips and tricks with the students on how to handle networking, which is an extremely important skill in the working world. 

Hottinger started out his discussion of networking by asking, “Are you going to feel awkward or uncomfortable?”

“Absolutely,” he said in response to his own rhetorical question.  

He went on to describe some ways to break the ice in the “unnatural” process of networking. He explained that finding something in common is always a good place to start, and sets a “conversational tone,” which was something he emphasized often. 

“Connect with another human being, bring it down to that level,” Hottinger said. 

Some of the recommended questions to ask alumni were in regards to what experiences they had on campus that helped them develop useful skills in the workplace. Hottinger explained that those questions would get the other person talking and allow the conversation to take a natural path to which you can actively listen and respond. 

Hottinger shared his own experience in networking that accompanied his career change from finance on Wall Street to career development and counseling, reflecting upon his own challenges and failures.

“His story helped me realize that even the people I look up to, successful people, had similar experiences, and that networking isn’t easy,” said Jillian Casey ‘22, a business student who attended the workshop. 

The other point that Hottinger emphasized over and over again was to never apologize, and not put yourself down, especially in front of alumni or future employers. He explained that there are skills that are developed and required in any job, from babysitting or landscaping to internships that would be of value to companies and corporations.   

“Don’t ever dismiss yourselves or what you’ve done,” he said.

Along with not putting oneself down, Hottinger emphasized the importance of being yourself and allowing alumni to get to know you. Networking is a process in which one tries to get career and experience assistance from professionals they meet. That being said, Hottinger explained that a succes

“They will and can help you out, but it’s a process,” Hottinger said. “They can’t advocate for you if they don’t know you.”  

The presentation also recommended things such as informational interviews, job shadowing and continuous communication with network contacts. Hottinger emphasized continuously from personal experience as a networker as well as someone with whom young professionals network that practice is the key to success. 

“Be comfortable with discomfort,” he instructed. 

Students at the workshop left with a sense of relief knowing that the nerves they have in regards to networking are not unusual. 

“My biggest take-away had to be that networking is not easy. With going and trying to get internships in the future, networking has been one of my biggest concerns because it’s awkward,” said Casey. “Going to the event and realizing that it’s awkward for everyone will be helpful in the future,” she continued. 

Another sophomore, Grace Mullane ‘22, said, “After attending the workshop I felt much better about networking and now I am much more confident about starting the process.” 

Hottinger expressed his excitement for the event on Thursday night and the opportunity that the students will have at the event.

“The Dolan Career Development Center is hoping the Undercover Alumni event will be both informative and fun. We are trying to create an opportunity for students to engage in a networking dynamic with alumni, in a less stressful, more casual environment,” Hottinger said via email. “We are hoping that our students will make connections with alums based on their interests and values, and to be able to continue to develop those connections going forward.”

“You all have the capability of pulling this off,” Hottinger assured the students at the workshop before bringing the presentation to a close. 

Mullane said via electronic message, “I am looking forward to meeting alumni in a more relaxed setting at the Undercover Alumni event and hope to start making connections with the Fairfield Alumni since the network is so strong!” 

For more information on this week’s Undercover Alumni event, visit the event’s Life@Fairfield page.


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