One thing I’ve learned since being in college is that while networking with corporate representatives is important, making connections with your peers and the people you work with in school is crucial. The Trojan Family is definitely a real thing and I’ve encountered Trojan alums throughout the recruiting process (and in all 3 of my internships).
Besides the value you can see in recruiting and the job search, I’ve personally found that networking with your peers is paramount in doing well in your classes. During my freshman year, I had a mentor in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) who was a senior in a similar major and she was so incredibly helpful that first year, when I didn’t know what to get involved in or who to talk to and she really helped me grow and get out of my comfort zone. I was also in the Viterbi Student-Alumni Mentor Program (VSAMP), where I was paired with an alumnus who had majored in Environmental Engineering, worked for a nonprofit, and then moved onto work for a private company (basically exactly what I want to do). We had monthly meet-ups and she helped me develop my leadership style and learn how to navigate being a strong woman in the workplace. This relationship was nice because I never felt like I had to network or anything, but instead we were able to talk freely and realistically about environmental issues and being a woman in STEM.
While formal mentorship programs are great and I obviously benefitted so much from them, it’s the casual relationships that you develop without even knowing their importance that really matter. Daisy Benitez, another Viterbi student who graduated last year, worked at Ramboll Environ the summer before I did and helped me prepare for the interview and put a good word in for me! Daisy has also been instrumental every year in helping me choose my classes so that I don’t over- or underload myself. She also helped me with homework and labs, since she understood the concepts much better than me.
And in case I haven’t talked about my study abroad experience enough, the relationships I developed during that program were so important to my academic success while abroad and also since coming back to the states. I run into #AbroadSquad in classes all the time and have worked with them on homework and class projects in all 3 semesters since our summer abroad! Having familiar faces who have different majors (as opposed to my peers in my same major), adds diversity of ideas and experiences to a group that is so valuable. Now that I’m finishing up my time at USC, I hope that I can function as a mentor or something of the like for future Viterbi students just like those who have helped me 🙂