Resources and support to help you network & find a mentor.
Connecting with Trojan alumni and industry professionals can clarify and define career interests in a variety of fields while making valuable connections. Being part of the USC community means you are already part of an amazing global network! We encourage you to take advantage of all the networking resources available to you, all of which can be found here.
Networking Strategy Step-by-Step Guide
1. Start with who you know: classmates, faculty, friends, family, and community membersLet everyone know that you are exploring careers and/or internship/job searching. Do not underestimate the potential contacts your community might know! For example, you can start with your professors since many remain in contact with their former students and support organizations and professionals in their respective industries/disciplines.
2. Find new connections through USC, social media platforms, and professional associations
Find alumni with similar interests and skill sets using the Trojan Network, and LinkedIn. Use social media to identify people with commonalities or similar careers/fields of interests- Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are great places to start!
The USC Career Center recommends starting with these top 3 networking resources:
One of the most advantageous resources for USC Trojans is the Trojan Network, our exclusive networking and mentorship platform. It only takes a few minutes to register and find alumni contacts that have volunteered to offer advice and mentorship throughout your time at USC and beyond.
- Once logged in, select the “Network” tab at the top. This will display a complete list of alumni on the platform.
- Filter and find alumni by industry, degree/major(s), geographic location, help topic(s), USC communities, and more.
- Once identified, select “Let’s Connect” to pick a message template that you can personalize and edit based on the topic of your choice including networking advice, career exploration, and more.
- Create a LinkedIn profile to get started.
- Use the “Search” box to find alumni by major, job, or organization of interest. Tips on finding alumni in LinkedIn.
- Look at alumni career paths, see what groups they are in, and research organization’s pages.
School-based career services
Check your school-based/academic career services and student organizations for alumni networking platforms and upcoming networking events.
Additional Networking Resources include:
- Professional Associations
Find new contacts by researching organizations, industries, professional associations, and conferences that are related to the work you are potentially interested in. Access the USC LibGuide Professional Associations section or the Career Access Resource Library (CARL) and type in the field of interest in the search engine for related information. Many professional associations have discounted rates for students. Industry professionals are often impressed and willing to mentor proactive students who join, participate, or volunteer for these associations.
- Candid Careers
Watch alumni video clips of alumni being interviewed about their career paths in diverse industries and positions. Some alumni have offered to talk with you – look under the alumni Candid Career profile for the checked “Career Coach” button.
3. Asking to connect
Most networking relationships start with an informational interview as a way to connect in a meaningful manner and build rapport. An informational interview is a one-on-one meeting between you (the information seeker) and an information provider (i.e., working professional) where you gather information about career fields, positions of interest, and industry trends.
When asking for an informational interview, you should consider conveying the following in their initial message/connection:
- Explain what resource or connection helped you find the contact
- A brief self-introduction (major, year, and current career interests)
- Explain why you are reaching out and what your are hoping to learn through an informational interview
Tips for using the Trojan Network to reach out: To connect appropriately, the USC Trojan Network has templates to guide the conversation. Once you log-in and identify an individual you want to speak with, select “Let’s Connect” and a window with message templates will be available for you to choose from. Use these templates to your first message to potential new contacts.
Tips for using LinkedIn to reach out: When requesting a connection, you should personalize the message to explain why you wish to connect and what outcome you are hoping for (i.e. an informational interview).
4. Conduct informational interviews
Before: Explore how to set up and conduct an informational interview. Organize your list of potential contacts and start making your requests to connect. Once an informational interview has been scheduled, prepare by creating a list of questions to ask. We recommend these questions but be sure to avoid questions that might make your contact feel uncomfortable.
During: In the very beginning of the conversation, your goal should be to build rapport with your contact by asking for information and advice. Do not expect your contact to offer you anything more than information, especially on your first meeting. Eventually your contact may offer to look at your resume or forward your application materials to Human Resources.
Start your informational interview by greeting your contact warmly and thanking them for taking time out of their schedule. Remind them briefly of the reason you wanted to connect. Mention that you prepared a few questions. When asking your questions, allow your contact ample time to answer without interruption. Take notes minimally if needed but do not let your notetaking be a distraction.
After: When completed with the informational interview, verbally thank them again. Ask if there is anyone else they think you should connect with and if they would be willing to refer you. Send them a thank you email within 48 hours.
5. Repeat the networking process again and again!Networking is a give-and-take opportunity. Just as we expect alumni to help during your times of need, we expect that you will serve as a good resource for other people along the way. Sharing what you have learned with others will help you too so please be generous with helping others along the way.
Importance of Mentors
Mentors can be defined in many different ways. Defined by the Webster dictionary, a mentor is a “trusted counselor or guide.” Oprah Winfrey has been quoted with stating “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” Finally, politician John C. Crosby defined mentoring as “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”
Regardless of how you define a mentor in your own life, USC is committed to providing diverse opportunities for all students to make connections and learn from formal and/or informal mentors. Through casual or planned conversations, informational interviews, and real-world projects, mentors can often provide general advice, offer insight into different career paths, connect you with others in the field, discuss the recruiting process, and provide ideas to help advance your career.
USC offers several different mentorship programs by department, academic unit, or interest group. We have highlighted a few but encourage you to speak with your academic advisor or school-based career center regarding specific major based mentorship programs
1. Trojan Network: Learn from alumni regarding their career and industry-related experiences. You can gain valuable advice from alumni during brief chat sessions, informational interviews, mentorships, and real-world projects.
2. First-Generation Mentor Program: Gives first-generation college students exposure to the working world and a focus on professional and career development. Undergraduate students will be paired with USC alumni who were also first-generation college students.
3. International Student Mentorship Program: The program aims to support international undergraduate and graduate student career and personal development and wellbeing by fostering mentorship relationships with international Trojan alumni.