Many think that networking for contacts and jobs does not begin until one is a senior in college. That
kind of thinking is like waiting until the night before a final to study. It just won't work. Think about networking like researching a project. It takes some time to find the right information for the project, in this case, the project is you. The people you connect with today and throughout your years in college are the most critical you can make and for many are the primary contacts they will use to land a killer job after graduation.
Here are five tips that will help you begin developing your network and build those important connections while still getting your course work done and getting the most from college life!
Tip # 1 – Get Off Campus – Day in and day out we are living on Blackboard and spending our time on campus in classes and activities. However, frankly after a few weeks it might be time to get out of the University vacuum. It may be as simple as going to study at the library or coffee shop. Instead of using the ATM at the bank, walk inside and get on line you never know whom you will meet. You will be amazed at how many business people are doing the same thing to meet people just like you.
Tip # 2-- Don’t Be Shy -- When you meet new people say hello. Make that introduction with intent and purpose. Research some other activities that you have an interest in and check out community organizations not affiliated with the campus. Read what activities are going on around town in the local paper and check them out. Pretty soon you will meet some people who are as interesting as you are! Use being a student to your advantage. Moreover, most important never worry about going to an event alone. As you walk around wide-eyed someone will introduce themselves to you. Moreover, now a new network has started. If you take one of your friends to any of these events, make a pact not to talk to each other for the first fifteen minutes. I can guarantee if you get through the first fifteen minutes you will not see your friend again till it is time to leave because they are making contacts too.
Tip # 3 – Tap Into Your Parents -- Your parents and their friends know hundreds of people. Some may have even larger networks. If your parents post things about you on their Facebook, know they are proud of your accomplishments and the hard work you are doing. This in turn is being seen by their network. If you have a particular area of interest, ask your parents whom they know who has a similar interest. Then, reach out and share something about a paper, project or activity with their friend. Pretty soon your will have a network of people who will be talking to you based upon your parents cred. Just make sure you value those relationships and thank your folks.
Tip # 4 – Use Linkedin -- Sign up for Linkedin while in college and begin accumulating contacts. However, first build a clean, professional profile. Only include skills and accomplishments that directly relate to you. Linkedin has many features that allow you to highlight your education and even your courses. List important projects, your community service and the organizations and associations to which you belong. Begin building your resume and attach it as well. If you need help developing your resume ask one of your friend who is a Communications Major, they can help you. As you near graduation, you can even add letters of recommendations from professors. And, don’t forget to have a professional photograph added. Pretty soon those connections you made during Tips 1, 2, and 3 will connect with you on Linkedin. Oh, one more thing, during the early phases of your use of Linkedin don’t link with your college friends unless they are at the top of your class.
Tip # 5 – Internship Time -- Check with the student services director or your professor and find out what internships are available. Working at a company or community organization will give you invaluable experience at how the world works off campus. A few months in the trenches at a busy organization will improve your skills, even if it’s in an area that is not your prime interest you never know what you will learn. If you leave a good impression, there is a good likelihood you may be asked back for a summer job or even a full-time job after you graduate. Another great benefit of an internship is the opportunity to work with people from a variety of organizations, the contacts you make may be from another organization that works with your internship company.
There are many opportunities to meet people while still in college. Developing your network is a long-term process that develops one person at a time. Put your best foot forward and good luck.