Networking in college may feel premature to some, but most graduates will tell you that the connections they made in college were instrumental in their success, post-grad. Whether you realize it or not, you’re meeting future employers, employees, and co-workers as you make friends and build relationships through your studies.
It’s estimated 70-80% of all jobs aren’t advertised, which means, the majority of the time, getting the job is more about who you know rather than what you know. Networking begins the moment you step onto campus (sometimes before), so it’s important to make valuable contacts from day one and build on them throughout your time on campus. Networking for college students could be a wide range of things, so we’ve selected five college networking tips we think will give you the head start you need when you get to the job market:
The job market is constantly changing so it’s a good idea to talk to recent graduates who have been through the job search recently rather than professors who haven’t looked for a job in a decade or more.
Make an effort to attend alumni networking events and get to know people in the industry you hope to work in. Carry business cards or resumes and ask for informational interviews, which can be an opportunity for you to ask questions and gain insight with no strings attached. It’s smart to start growing relationships with alumni while you’re still a student and not currently looking for a job because it’s less pressure for the person you’re reaching out to. They won’t feel like you’re expecting a job offer right away.
Begin building connections with your professors early on so your relationships with them have time to grow. Engage in class, ask questions, and take advantage of your professor’s office hours as a chance to network.. Professors have connections outside the university who could be helpful to you once you’re looking for a job. At some point you’ll be asking for reference letters and it’s good to have a few people on your list that you know will write you a glowing review.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to professors outside of classes you’re taking. If there’s a field you’re interested in, reach out to a professor in that field and ask them for an informational interview. Most professors are passionate about their field and willing to talk to any student who shows a genuine interest.
Join clubs and organizations at your college to build valuable relationships, but also don’t get caught in the bubble of your college campus. Experiment going off-campus for conferences or meetups related to your desired field of study. While your campus is a great place to network, it’s not the only place. There’s a whole world of connections to build out there, so try signing up for a networking event that interests you outside of your university’s network.
An internship isn’t just about impressing the people who hired you; it’s also about making connections with your fellow employees and interns. You never know who may hire you in the future, so take your internship seriously and work hard. Stay in touch with people you meet after you leave an internship with quarterly email updates to stay on their radar and keep them updated on your accomplishments.
Striking up conversations with strangers doesn’t come easily for most people, so take time to work on your people skills, just like you would any other skill. Make an effort to step out of your comfort zone and talk to people you don’t know. Be prepared with a few questions and conversation topics that you can rely on to keep a conversation going.
Approach every interaction with the goal of adding value to a person’s life even if it’s something small like a compliment or recommendation for a yoga studio. You’ll find it much easier to start a conversation when you have confidence in the fact that you’re adding value for this person as much as they are for you.
Networking isn’t about meeting as many people as possible, it’s about developing strong relationships with a select group of well-connected people. You can find your network and build on it through organizations like NSHSS where we believe in building career connections as early as high school. With a broad network spanning more than 170 countries, NSHSS provides you with networking you need to succeed in high school, college, and beyond.