Think you know the secrets to networking? And, no we aren’t talking about mindless social network scrolling. “Networking,” in the traditional form of the word, is one of those career-oriented buzzwords that sounds about as fun as watching paint dry. You might think of networking as the self-serving equivalent of “socializing” – except networking happens during events that require name tags, not over a board game at your best friend’s house.
No matter how you feel about networking, engaging in this supposedly “boring” activity seriously ups your chances of career success. Studies suggest that anywhere from 70 to 85 percent of jobs are filled thanks to networking, with the majority of job openings never being publicly posted. This leaves them open only to referrals and company insiders, who know a friend – or a friend of a friend – currently working for the business.
Even if your post-grad plans don’t include tackling the corporate jungle immediately, there are still plenty of reasons why networking can boost your success in graduate programs. Networking not only enhances your social skills – which will certainly come in handy while defending your massive thesis – but they’ll also help you grow a strong support system, much like the one you’ve found while pursuing your undergraduate degree.
Perhaps the best reason yet to learn how to effectively network? Just like learning how to ride a bike, once these valuable communication skills are learned, you never really forget how to use them, making it easier to work your way up the proverbial ladder in the future. Needless to say, learning how to network is sure to take you very far along your career path, wherever it may lead. So, without further ado, uCribs presents 5 strategies that will help you learn how to network, while you’re still a college student.
Make an Effort to Network Every Day
Want to network like a C-suite boss? Even if you consider yourself a wallflower now, it’s easy to build your networking skills with a bit of daily dedication. No, we’re not saying that you need to don your best cocktail attire and schmooze every successful person you come into contact with. Truthfully, it’s all much simpler than that! Networking, despite its business-world connotations, really comes down to connecting with people. So, do what you can to form connections with classmates, professors, and even perfect strangers on a regular basis.
If that sounds overwhelming, take a moment to consider that you probably “network” every single day without realizing that you’re doing it! Have you ever found yourself chatting up the keynote speaker after an on-campus event, or making habitual small talk with campus faculty? Congratulations – you’ve been perfecting your networking technique all along! If you’re more of a loner on campus, never fear. One of the easiest ways to jumpstart college networking is by joining a student organization. Yep, even spending time with classmates, debating the latest art house flick in film club counts as networking. Pretty cool, huh? Our advice is to find an enjoyable way to come face-to-face with new people, perspectives, and situations, then watch as your networking skills improve in no time.
Harness the Power of Social Media
Adorable puppy photos, countless memes, and that impressive gym selfie. Your social media feed is definitely oriented toward your lifestyle, and it probably functions as a nice digital getaway from college stressors. But, if you’re only using your social media channels to keep up with the latest vlogs and Instagram stories, then you might want to reconsider how these platforms can up your networking game. After all, social media grants you the power to connect with just about anyone on the planet. Is it just us, or is it a shame to squander that mind-blowing ability on extensive Twitter scrolling?
You may not realize it now, but there are tons of recruiters and well-connected individuals using social media to “meet” new people every day. That’s why it’s an excellent idea to use your social media presence for networking purposes. Remember LinkedIn, the network you signed up for years ago, only to promptly forget about its existence? And what about that pre-med group you joined on Facebook? Odds are, you’ve already joined several platforms and/or social media groups where you can turn those notifications back on and get down to business. Just don’t forget to take a hard look at your personal profiles before you begin sharing, connecting, and messaging. If those rehashed memes might perturb a future employer or professor, it’s probably best to completely delete them.
Consider Pursuing an Internship or Freelance Job
While in college, you may think that your hard skills lack the polish needed to excel in the real world. After all, who would trust a 21-year-old to help run their company? But in reality, businesses are constantly on the lookout for promising talent, and what’s more promising than a college student who might just become a company VP one day? Alright, we may be getting ahead of ourselves a bit, but the fact remains that college internships, freelance jobs, and other relevant opportunities can open you up to a world of post-grad possibilities – all while benefitting your networking efforts.
Aside from earning you invaluable on-the-job experience and helping you to fulfill graduation requirements, internships, and freelance positions are some of the most fruitful ways to help make a name for yourself, while you’re straddling that line between your collegiate years and full-fledged adulthood. It’s hard to beat the one-on-one time afforded to you by internships and freelance gigs, and if you show enough potential and genuinely enjoy the work, you might come out of your position with a bona fide job offer on the table. While it certainly won’t be a first-class ticket to that VP job, you can bet that the end product – a job offer, a recommendation letter, or a strong relationship with a successful business owner – will prove invaluable as you continue your networking journey.
Hang Out with University Alumni
From the friendly upperclassman who provided you with your very first on-campus tour to the fun-loving neighbor who graduated just last year, it’s likely that you already know alumni from your college or university – even if you don’t necessarily consider them alumni of your school, but rather an old friend or acquaintance. No matter how you choose to label them, the fact remains that alumni connections can be some of the most rewarding when it comes to jumpstarting your networking skills and finding post-grad opportunities.
You know how you feel all warm and fuzzy when meeting up with an old high school acquaintance, or someone who also attended your childhood summer camp? Well, alumni of your college or university likely feel the same way about you! It’s human nature to trust those with whom we share a common background – like spending collegiate years at the same institution – and when it comes to joining a powerful league of influencers who aren’t of the Instagram variety, your university’s alumni network is where it’s at. While you’re still too young to join any official alumni associations, you can often spot past graduates at campus events or special celebrations, like Homecoming. It might initially seem challenging to make friends with people who are considerably older than you and pursued different majors, but don’t let that deter you from striking up a conversation with the college cheerleader turned seasoned pharmaceutical sales rep. She probably has some big-time connections in her field – plus, a funny story about the time her entire squad pranked the basketball team.
Pay a Visit to Your Campus Career Center
Question: where can you ask – and get answers to – random career and networking questions, learn about relevant job opportunities, and participate in mock interviews? Answer: your on-campus career center! Though often overlooked, your campus career center offers a plethora of resources specifically tailored to students just like you. Let’s face it: you might be on your way to learning all the ropes associated with networking, but you’re probably hesitant to bombard new professional contacts with overwhelming – and sometimes outlandish – questions about that mystical next step known as “adulting.” That’s where your college career center comes in!
Career centers are staffed by knowledgeable counselors, who can not only answer your off-the-wall questions about careers and grad school but can also help you make connections to local employers, alumni, and friends of your institution – all of which will lend a serious helping hand when it comes to cementing your next step after college. And while some of the skills you’ll learn won’t exactly classify as networking, the knowledge you gain from your college career center will come in handy once you’ve landed an interview. So, prepare yourself for the next chapter of your life with a bit of guidance from your friendly campus career center.
You may think that networking is for desperate job-seekers or hot-shot business owners trying to grow their client base, but networking isn’t based on need. Rather, it’s a person-first approach to exchanging ideas and growing your list of reputable contacts. The relationships you build now can mean all the difference for your future self, once you’ve officially started your first job search or entered a post-graduate program. You never know when you’ll need a helping hand, and with the right networking skills in place, you can bet that you’ll graciously receive the assistance you seek from a contact, who was blown away by your college self’s charm and charisma.