Hey, college students! Its time to hone in on one of your most powerful career-building tools: networking.
Unfortunately, you wont hear much about the importance of networking in your college classes — and its not because youre daydreaming during the professors lecture. Its just that professional networking doesnt really fit into an organic-chemistry syllabus or world-literature discussion.
Youre familiar with social networks, right? You gain followers on Instagram and add friends on Snapchat. Networking, in the professional sense, is similar in that youre establishing connections with people typically in your field. These connections could be working professionals, experts, thought leaders, or even professors.
The purpose of networking is to form relationships with those wholl help get you to where you want to go, and the earlier you start building up your network, the better. Thats why its important to start networking in college — before youre even ready to enter the workforce.
The 3 Bones of Networking for Student Success | Isaac Serwanga | TEDxCSUS
Why is college networking important?
College networking is important for a variety of reasons, including:
Encouraging interaction with others
Networking for college students encourages positive interactions with professors, peers and working professionals. Additionally, networking in college allows students to practice effective communication skills in a professional environment.
Creating job opportunities
As a college student, you may have more job opportunities available to you through your network. Once you have made a connection, that person may be able to serve as a reference for you when you apply to a potential job at a later time. Also, anyone who is in your network might be able to recommend you for a particular position by using their own network.
For example, you may know that a former classmate works at a company youre applying for. You can ask them to recommend you to the hiring manager so that they are more likely to find your application, review it and ask for an interview.
Providing access to additional resources
As your college network grows, the amount of opportunities to gain knowledge, develop skills and utilize resources grows as well. You can contact other professionals in your network if you need help, references or feedback in your current career.
For example, you may be looking for assistance with finding additional learning opportunities or ways you can build your skill set. In this case, you could access your network for information on how to find training, certifications or other professional development opportunities in your field, which can be useful throughout your professional career.
Preparing for future career field
Networking as a college student can provide you multiple opportunities to find a mentor and observe professionals working in your area of interest. Through job shadowing and having a mentor, you can get a glimpse of your chosen career, discover more about the field, learn from professionals experiences and gain advice for Professional Development.
College networking tips
Here are nine tips you can use to get involved in and enhance your college student network:
Be active on campus
Students who are active on campus can meet a variety of people and form connections. Here are some ways college students can be active on campus:
Being active on campus is important for networking because as your involvement with other students and faculty members grows, your network also grows. The more your network expands, the more opportunities you may have throughout your professional career.
Utilize campus career center
Your on-campus career center is an excellent resource for planning and preparing for your career after college. Visiting the career center allows you to access information regarding internships, job postings and career counseling. Some career centers even offer college students the opportunity to sit down for a practice job interview.
Other resources that may be available include access to job boards, resume and cover letter review and workshops on resume writing, cover letter writing, portfolio development, interviewing and job search strategies.
Attend a job fair
The career center is also responsible for organizing job fairs, which are a great place to start networking in college since youre able to meet professionals and hiring managers in your fields of interest. Also, you can hand your resume out to a variety of companies looking for soon-to-be graduates for internships and entry-level positions.
Visiting a job fair also allows you to present yourself professionally and showcase your communication skills. After the job fair, you can also send a quick follow-up email thanking each company representative that you talked with for their time. This professional courtesy can help you finalize that professional connection.
Find an internship
Another way to boost your college network is through participating in an internship, which are opportunities to work by learning from experienced professionals. Having this hands-on experience when applying for an entry-level position can help your resume stand out from the rest and better prepare you with the skills and knowledge you need to succeed in a role.
Your internship may or may not be in your chosen field of study, but you still gain relevant transferable and hard skills to take with you into other roles.
If youre interning for a company that you want to work for in the future, then your internship allows you to connect with and showcase your skills to future colleagues and supervisors. For example, the other employees at the company know your personality because you were an intern, and the company is aware of your skill set and they know if you fit in with the company culture.
However, if your internship is not in your chosen field of study, you have the opportunity to learn about a specific career field and gain valuable experience. Likewise, you have name recognition, which can prove useful depending on the connections of those working around you.
Communicate with professors and faculty members
A simple way to network in college is to be active in class and to communicate regularly with professors and faculty members. A professor may be able to lead you to an internship or help you find your first job after college.
You may find a professor that you feel would be a valuable addition to your network, but you havent taken any classes from them or you dont know them at all. In this case, you can send them an email or stop by during their office hours to talk about your mutual interests and your chosen career path. They may be able to help you network or connect you with someone who can help you further.
Create an online presence
Having a broad and professional online presence can increase your ability to network with a wide range of people. Your online presence is also an important part of how you portray yourself to companies and potential employers.
You can create an online presence by developing your own website to house your portfolio, resume and other professional information. An organized and appealing professional website can help you get noticed and is an interactive way to supplement your resume.
You can also create a social media account that connects you with your classmates and friends, and can also link you with your schools alumni group, which is a great way to contact former students. There are also professional social media platforms where you can showcase your skills, experience, resume, portfolio and network connections.
All of these platforms also allow you to build relationships with individuals that you may not meet otherwise. Just be sure to keep your communications respectful, appropriate and professional to maintain a good impression on others.
Send cold emails
Sending a cold email is emailing someone you have never met, which is a quick and easy networking strategy for college students. You can send a cold email to a faculty member you dont know but whose work interests you and you want to learn more or ask for their advice about your career.
Sending a cold email to a distant network connection could help you find an internship or provide you with tips that you need to jumpstart your career after graduation.
With cold emails, mention that youre a college student and what you hope to gain from connecting with them so they understand why youre emailing. If you have a mutual connection, be sure to mention that persons name to further show your connection to the recipient. Also, make sure to be polite and thank them for their time.
Reach out and connect first
As you build your college student network, you may often need to reach out and be the first to start the connection. You can initiate contact with recent graduates and other alumni through social media or by attending alumni events. Also, you can follow companies online through their social media accounts. Connecting with a potential employer online can show them that youre interested in their work and company. It also provides you with easy access to any job openings they have posted.
Its important to maintain your past and present connections to ensure you still have access to future opportunities throughout your career. For example, if you meet a company representative at a job fair, send a follow-up email right away. They may not be hiring at the moment, but when they are hiring again, maintaining contact with them may keep your resume fresh in their minds. You can also talk with your family and friends about your career interests and goals. A family member or friend may be connected with your ideal company.
How important is it to network in college?
Is networking a college major?
How do you get into a college network?
- Use part-time jobs and internships to your advantage. …
- Cold email people you admire. …
- Take advantage of professional networking groups and clubs on campus. …
- Meet with professors, even ones with whom you never took classes.
What do you do at a college networking event?
- Prepare and practice to develop your networking skills.
- Know yourself. …
- Conduct research and use the information you gather to ask informative questions. …
- Both verbal and non-verbal communication is important. …
- Be conﬁdent, express genuine curiosity, and stay present and connected.