Are Networking Treks Beneficial?
Claremont McKenna College holds numerous networking trips during the year, usually during Winter break, Fall break, Thanksgiving break and Spring break. These treks began at CMC over a decade ago, with numerous locations and interest clusters added over the years. How constructive actually are these trips, and are they valuable when it comes to networking, getting internships and perhaps even jobs? A large proportion of students at CMC have pre-professional interests, and these trips can offer an effective way for them to get a head start on planning for their future.
After speaking to students who attended various networking treks, as well as Assistant Director of Career Services Melissa Scott, I discovered the diverse perspectives on CMC networking treks.
Why should you go on a networking trek?
Networking treks are a great way to scope out the profession you’re interested in, as well as establish and nurture long-term relationships with alumni and employees. Scott described the treks as a way to see real offices and employees in action. “It’s important to put a face to a name,” said Scott. “While we give you all the tools through the alumni career contacts directory and LinkedIn to take ownership and reach out to alumni and parents, and have these networking conversations, it’s totally different when you meet these people face-to-face and have a real life conversation.” Most students we spoke to revealed that their main reason for attending these treks was to discover if they were actually interested in the fields.
Who pays for the treks?
The CMC student body is comprised of students from over 40 different countries, which constitutes a rather diverse student body, with students from varied backgrounds. Traveling around the country for these treks is not always cheap, especially for students who lack the financial resources to cover fees for transportation and lodging.
Liam Brennan-Burke ’21, who attended the San Francisco consulting networking trek over fall break, noted how the trek was almost entirely funded by the school. “We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott, and all Ubers and meals were covered by CMC,” he said. “We usually ate lunch at the companies we visited, and the school paid for breakfast.”
Scott emphasized that the school takes care of the stay and offers travel stipends for students receiving financial aid. “If there’s going to be a night or a lunch where students are on their own, we try to make that known well in advance so that students know to bring cash or card with them,” she said.
What is the application process like?
Applications can often be daunting, and the fear of rejection can sometimes dissuade students from applying. However, the application for these networking treks is relatively easy. Grace Wang ’21, who attended the LA networking trip over fall break this semester, said that there was no interview. However, the application required a resume and cover letter.
Scott noted that certain treks are more competitive than others. “ITAB (Information Technology Advisory Board) tends to be a little more competitive, but it’s also a really fun one to attend,” she said. “For D.C., the norm has been around 25 applications and we take around 16 to 20.”
How are the treks different from on-campus Info Sessions?
CMC regularly has companies visit campus, where employees give presentations and talk about internship programs. What are the advantages of going to the company itself versus seeing them on campus?
Brennan-Burke described the company visits as being a more holistic overview of the company where students are able to gain a broader understanding of the company as opposed to an info-session where you only see what they want you to see in their presentations. “We get to see what they may think is not noteworthy enough but actually matters day-to-day, such as how colleagues interact with each other and the dynamics of the work environment,” he said.
Further, Wang noted that attending the alumni reception was another perk for students. “We chatted with a Scripps alum who is currently a CMC parent, and she told us about networking within the industry as well as her own experiences, which was really helpful,” she said. “Most companies we visited had an interactive alumni panel after the presentations where we were able to ask questions.”
Do these treks help with jobs and internships?
Edgar Warnholtz ’19, Senior Class President, said that he was able to get his Silicon Valley Program Internship as a result of the ITAB ’17 (Silicon Valley / San Francisco) networking trip. “I’ve still kept in touch with some of the people I met on the trip,” he said. “The treks are a great way to expand your network, get rid of (or reduce) your nervousness, and allow you to understand the internal workings of companies!”
Scott mentioned that the school provides the alumni with a resume book of the students attending the trip ahead of time. “A lot of the employers said to me, that if any of your students express extreme interest in this internship program, let me know who they are and I’ll flag them down in the system,” she said. “And that’s huge! Because these companies – especially creative and entertainment – get thousands of applications.”
Overall, the networking treks are a great way to get yourself noticed by potential employers or even just to discover a field you may not know much about. Warnholtz did note that it would be great if the Soll Center asked students for recommendations on which companies to visit, but the overall response from the student body has been positive. I would recommend these treks as a way to put yourself in an actual working environment to see if it is similar to where you envision yourself working in a few years. They’re also a great way to explore a city with friends while being productive.