You can never start networking early enough. If you want a job after you graduate from college, you need to know people in the industry you want to work in.
It is vital to pro-actively work on your network before you leave school and build those crucial connections. Here are five tips for effective networking while still coping with your course work and enjoying college life, too!
1. Get out there: Some college campuses can be pretty isolating, which is nice and less distracting when you want to focus on your studies. For networking however, you will have to get out of the bubble and network off campus. Check out meetup groups near you, and ask your parents for a budget to attend conferences (usually on weekends) in your field. Most events will have special student rates and I am sure your parents will rather fund attending a networking event than a trip to Vegas. Also don’t forget to reach out to other people attempting, prior to the event.
2. Don’t be shy: If you’ve never been to a networking event before, you might not know how to approach people and what to say. For the first event you’re attending, you can ask friends to join you, so you can comfortably test the waters. Make sure you don’t end up talking to your friends only. If that’s the case, and you have grown a little more confident, you have to attend networking events by yourself. And don’t worry, people are nice, and they will approach you if they see you standing there alone. After all, everyone is there to make connections.
3. Use parents as resources: Your friends’ parents have a lot of experience and probably a large network. Students tend to miss the opportunity to use them for networking, but those parents could be a gold mine when it comes to getting connected. If they are within your field of interest, don’t hesitate to ask for advice. No parent is too busy to help out a student that is eager to learn and listen. Use being a student to your advantage, grow relationships with alumni and other people while there is no pressure, then you will have a solid relationship with those contacts and they will want to help you after graduation.
4. Use LinkedIn: You need to sign up for LinkedIn while you are still IN college and “collect” connections, build your network and work on your profile. You can connect with people who are going to the same events and even start public conversations. And it is a great tool for following up with people you have met. Having a complete profile with lots of connections and recommendations from professors, part-time jobs etc, will look very impressive and powerful. All HR departments will look at your profile when you send in your resume, so also make sure to use a business type photo for your profile. If you are having trouble figuring it out, LinkedIn recently launched new options for students that make it easier than ever to get the hang of this network.
5. Get an internship: Get a job or internship to connect and expand your network. Working in a company will give you access to contacts as well as improve your skills. Also, if you leave a good impression, it is likely that the employer will hire past interns over other job seekers. You will also have the ability to meet with senior people in the field of your interest, learn from them, and be remembered when a job opening comes up, whether in their own company or elsewhere.
There are a lot of great opportunities available that you can only hear through certain people. Sometimes, it really is not what you know, but whom you know.