One of the things I wish I had learned at freshman orientation was the importance of networking. As a matter of fact, they should teach it in high school. My first job freshman year (at a pizza joint that stayed open until 3AM) was recommended to me by a friend that already worked there, knew they were still hiring and referred me to the owner. I wouldn’t have been able to earn my first “real world” paycheck without her help. It was achieved by networking.
The purpose of building a network is to not only keep up with our friends, family, colleagues, and classmates, but to use them and leverage their relationships. Yes, use them. Networking is one of the few times that using someone you know as a resource is totally acceptable. Most people (like me) hate the concept of networking because it sounds impersonal. But, it is possible to build personal connections and build a network in a meaningful and purposeful way. Ultimately, college is about career prep and networking is one of the key ways to help you achieve success after graduation. Remember too, it’s a reciprocal relationship, as you want to help others, not just have others help you!
Here are 10 ways to network in college.
1. Set networking goals
Yes, you can develop goals for anything in life. What are your goals for networking? Do you need recommendations? Do you need to make connections with people in your field of study?
2. Build a positive online presence
In today’s job market, your social media profiles are just as important as your resume. So when you use social media, make sure you use it wisely. Be sure to hide your the beer pong photo.
3. Use LinkedIn
It’s never too soon to start connecting with people you encounter that could help advance your career later. Whenever you meet someone in a professional or social setting, get a business card or better yet, ask him or her if they are on LinkedIn and connect.
4. Go to office hours
Office hours are a great way for you to personally meet and engage with your course instructor. You can use this time as opportunity to share your ideas and put yourself on their radar. The smaller your course, the more valuable these connections are to you. You can also ask them for valuable career advice
5. Engage with classmates in every class, even the ones that aren’t directly tied to your major
You never know how they can help you, or you them.
6. Get an internship (or two)
Not only do internships give you the opportunity to apply skills in a work setting and develop new ones, but also you can acquire references and LinkedIn recommendations.
7. Attend college events – especially career and faculty ones
These events provide great opportunities to meet peers, faculty, alums, and possibly industry contacts all in one place.
8. Make friends first
People tend to make the networking process seem impersonal, but it doesn’t have to be. Connect on a personal level, as these interactions will lead to more meaningful and memorable relationships. It will also increase their willingness to offer career help.
9. Follow the 80/20 Rule
Listen 80 percent of the time and talk 20. When connecting, remember to listen and gather information before imploring your own. You might learn something! (debtfreescholars.com)
10. Be yourself
Making connections doesn’t require you to get into “business” mode. And it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be authentic.
The most important concept to gain from all of this is even though you start networking in college, networking is a lifelong skill. The more you do it the more likely you are to achieve the type of success that you want to in your future.