Just because you’re still a college student doesn’t mean you should leave learning how to network effectively for later. Prepare for launching your career right now.
The connections you make in college may become instrumental later in life. People you meet while working side jobs or during internships, professors who teach at your college, recent graduates, and your fellow students – they’re all valuable resources of knowledge who can help kickstart your career. That’s why you should start building a set of relationships that will support you throughout your career as soon as you can.
Here are 7 tips to help you start networking effectively while you’re a college student.
1. Make the most of part-time jobs and internships
If you spend summers interning at companies or have a side job, you can use these opportunities not only for making some cash, but also for developing your first professional relationships.
It doesn’t matter what you do – you’re very likely to come across people who will go on to do amazing things and you’ll never know when they’ll be able to help you in the future.
Don’t discount anybody. Today’s assistant might become a high-powered executive. Use your time well to get to know other people. Ask them questions and connect with them. Make sure that you stay in touch after you leave a job or internship.
Connect with them on social media or send them a short email update every couple of months.
2. Connect with recent graduates
Your professors may serve as valuable sources of advice, but you can be sure to get the best tips from those who are a few years out of school. Recent graduates can tell you everything about the reality of looking for a job these days. They’ve had the experience, and know it first-hand.
That’s why you should connect with the college alumni network, especially those graduates who are pursuing the type of career that you want. You can use LinkedIn to access alumni’s employment information.
3. Email professionals that you admire
Cold emailing people means that you’ll be reaching out to someone you don’t know. And that can be scary. But it’s actually easier than it sounds.
If there’s someone you admire, you should take advantage of the modern communication technologies and drop them a note. Messaging someone with whom you have no connection is strange, but most people are flattered when a college student contacts them. People generally like to help others, and it feels even better to help someone just starting their career.
You may even get an internship at your dream company this way. Emailing a role model to get some advice about choosing the career path is a great idea. Just make sure that you respect their time and don’t become too demanding. Don’t forget to use “I’m a college student” as your opener!
4. Attend all kinds of social events
It’s a pity to miss out on all the opportunities for networking that are part of college life. Yet, many students feel too shy to attend these social functions. But that’s not the attitude that brings you closer to professional success. Being an introvert isn’t an excuse for avoiding networking.
It doesn’t matter if a social event is organized by your college or the community where you live – it’s always an excellent opportunity to connect with people who are influential or are part of your dream industry.
5. Join professional networking groups and clubs
Your college probably has a club or association that you can join. Do that, and you’re bound to meet new amazing people who will help you to expand your opportunities.
It’s only in college that you’re surrounded by thousands of smart and interesting people, so get to know them – that effort may pay off later in life when you’ll be looking for professional connections.
You never know, but someone you meet at one of these meetings might later become a shareholder in your company!
If you can’t find any groups or clubs at your college that catch your eye, you can simply start one. Many colleges provide their students with special funding for such activities.
6. Meet with faculty
While at college, you’ll be exposed to some impressive people who have brilliant academic minds and strong work ethics. That’s right, I’m talking about your professors.
If there’s a topic that particularly interests you, muster your courage and reach out to the professor who is an expert in the field. Teachers love to share their passion, so you shouldn’t be afraid to ask them questions. They will appreciate your interest and give you plenty of extra information.
Take advantage of the faculty. A professor’s advice may change the trajectory of your life. For instance, a professor may help you take the first steps toward creating your own business by giving you a few pointers on how to write a business plan.
If you develop a professional relationship with certain professors, you should make sure that their expertise is available to you even after you leave college.
7. Take a closer look at your personal network
When you’re in college, you’ve got plenty of time to think about what you’d like to do in life. To figure out potential career options that would appeal to you, start sharing your interests with everyone.
Your friends and family may know people who could help you take these interests to the next level, expand your knowledge, and push you in the right professional direction.
Take advantage of your existing network to make new connections. Both winter and spring breaks are excellent occasions for reaching out to people at home about contacts who are relevant to your interests.
It doesn’t matter which school you attend and what you study – building a strong professional network now is the first step toward launching a successful career. You cannot imagine how much easier your life will be once you leave college with a collection of valuable connections at hand.
With a background in business administration and management, Tess Pajaron currently works at Open Colleges, Australia’s leading online educator. She likes to cover stories in careers and marketing.