College is a great time to start building your professional network. Even if you’re a first or second-year student, having some network connections early on can help greatly when it comes time to start applying to internships later on. Today, we’re going to go over some tips to help you build your network while in college. Let’s begin.
Keep an Open Mind
When you first start college, everything can feel a bit overwhelming. You’ll be in an entirely new place, surrounded by all new people, and you’ve got a whole bunch of new responsibilities to take on. The college experience can certainly feel like a balancing act, so it’s important to remember that potential network connections are all around you.
Let’s say you’ve arrived to class early and you hear a group of students talking about an upcoming event that’s relevant to your studies and interests. Here, you could politely ask them about the event, and how you might go about attending. Situations like this will sometimes require you to make the first move, which can be a bit nerve-racking for introverts, but taking that step will build confidence and open up new opportunities. Your professors might also make great network connections, so don’t count them out!
Create an Online Presence
You should seek to build your online presence as early on as possible, this way you can immediately connect with each new member of your network. LinkedIn is great for building a professional network, finding local events, and engaging in conversations about your field of study. Now would also be a good time to clean up your other social media profiles if necessary. The goal is to be yourself, but to also be professional and avoid any controversial or otherwise unsavory interactions online.
Once you’re all set up start looking for groups to join, such as your school’s alumni group or groups that are relevant to your studies and interests. Check these groups often, as they might post job openings, details on upcoming events, or important information related to your interests and studies. Depending on your field of study, you may also want to start putting together an online portfolio or a website. For more information on how to create a portfolio, check out our previous blog here.
Your school likely offers a number of great networking opportunities. From honor societies and clubs, to social events and guest speakers, there’s always something going on. Joining a campus organization or attending a social event will help you to meet new people, expand your professional network, and perhaps even learn something new.
Aside from all those networking opportunities, being a member of an organization or club is an excellent addition for your resume. When it comes time to start applying to internships, your participation in an honor society or a club will give you an edge over the other applicants and make you far more attractive to companies.
You could also try visiting your school’s career center. There, you can get resume-building tips, participate in practice interviews, find information on upcoming job fairs and other events, and speak with mentors who can help you with your studies and your career. The career center is also a great place to make new network connections, as there will be other students there who are also looking for assistance—not bad for an ice-breaker!
Practice networking? You betcha! For some, the thought of approaching a stranger out of the blue in an attempt to make a new network connection can seem like a daunting task. A great way to build confidence is to attend low-pressure events and start talking to people. Local concerts or sporting events are great for this sort of thing, since you won’t necessarily be surrounded by professionals; well, not in the “active” sense, anyway. You don’t even have to talk about your career or your studies—the point is to just get used to approaching and speaking with new people.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to go out and practice networking alone. Having a friend along with you will be a big confidence booster, and you can learn from one another. Engaging with others on LinkedIn can be good practice as well, since it requires you to use written communication, which is another essential skill for networking.
Maintain Your Network
Most importantly, stay in touch with your network. This could be as simple as interacting with members of you network on LinkedIn or other social media platforms, or taking the time to participate in events that members of your network are planning to attend. Remember, members of your professional network can’t help you if they don’t know you exist, so make the effort to say hello once in a while.
It’s also worth mentioning that you could create your own networking events, right from the comfort of your dorm room! If you’d like more advice on how to hold your own networking event, check out our previous blog here. The benefits of a solid professional network are numerous, so it would be to your advantage to start building yours as early as you can.
Want to be found by top employers? Upload Your Resume
Join Gold to Unlock Company Reviews