According to an annual survey by Right Management, well over 40 percent of jobs are landed through good networking. This guide focuses on not just the importance of networking, but offers actionable ways to build a wide circle of contacts, places to begin the networking journey and how to make good use of those contacts when the time comes.
Networking by the Year
Networking begins the moment a student walks onto the campus. From greeting that new roommate to saying hello to the academic advisor, each new interaction offers a wealth of possibility. Here’s what you can do to cultivate that long list of contacts, starting with the first day.
This is when building contacts begins, and there it’s never too early to start. Some of the most influential people met this year will be integral to the college experience for the next four years, as they will watch you grow and change over that time. Here’s how to start cultivating those connections.
- Set networking goals for each semester
Having a clear goal in mind can make a long road seem much more manageable. Choose personal goals for networking that go all the way up to the senior year and possibly beyond. This might be as simple as how many people you will meet each year or what clubs you will join.
- Work on your people skills
Striking up a conversation with a stranger doesn’t come naturally to everyone. This year, make a point of stepping out of the comfort zone and becoming more extroverted. Rehearse how you will say hello and have a few talking points in mind.
- Don’t pick and choose
Now is the time to network with everyone and anyone. Don’t narrow down the options – a lot can change in four years, including dreams, goals and career plans. Now is the time to spread a very wide net and catch a huge variety of contacts.
- Consider a fraternity or sorority
Greek organizations are often tight-knit, and wind up creating a sisterhood or brotherhood that lasts a lifetime. Fellow members are often willing and able to lend a hand when college is over and the career begins.
- Be curious
Everyone has an interesting story to tell. Ask about their ambitions, their family, where they come from and where they are going. View networking as a powerful tool for a future career – but also as a way to make friends with some of those contacts.
The awkward freshman year is over and now college students have settled into a routine. They are also more prepared to consider what they might want to do in the future, which means networking becomes much more targeted. Here are networking plans to make for the second year.
- Get out there
Getting face time with your network is extremely important. Not only is it much easier to remember someone who has actually smiled at you and shaken your hand, it forms a more intimate connection that could be quite important one day.
- Meet one new person each day
Make a point of saying hello to one new person each day. This deceptively simple practice not only builds your contacts naturally, but it serves as a nice way to show you are interested in the community around you. It’s also great work on those people skills mentioned earlier.
- Become more active in clubs
Now is the time to start showing up more often at club meetings, choosing clubs that are more closely related to a particular major, or joining groups that will offer a boost to future goals, such as a group for young professionals on campus.
- Look for internships
Working for a company that fits the ultimate career goal is something to strive for right now, as it will provide ample opportunity to network with those in the business. Student placement services can be a huge help with this step.
- Consider informational interviews
Also known as an informational conversation, these are meetings with potential employers, mentors or other professionals who can provide a wealth of information on their professional life. Conducting information interviews allows a student to learn more about the field they want to pursue while networking.
Now that the major is chosen, it’s time to add more network contacts that pertain to your future goals. Professors, advisors, mentors and internships are all going to take center stage this year. Here’s how to move forward.
- Evaluate what you’ve done so far
Take a hard look at how networking has gone so far. Did you meet your goals? Where were a few places that fell short? What could be improved? Revise your game plan and move forward.
- Develop a strong resume
Though networking might be the best way to land a great job, the resume matters, too. Take the time this year to work with the student placement office in creating a resume that will properly reflect your strengths.
- Take your search online
Don’t forget that networking can happen online, too. Now is a great time to create that LinkedIn profile, cultivate a twitter and Facebook presence, and otherwise use social media to build a good reputation.
- Step up the informational interviewing
Target those companies and businesses that matter most to the job search and interview a variety of individuals at several levels. Ask intelligent questions and be sure to keep in touch afterward with a thank-you note.
- Create a networking card
Make it easy for others to find your information with a networking card. Much like a business card, this will have your email address, phone number, and any other contact information that might be helpful to others.
Now is the time to put the networking from the past three years to good use. This year students will start seriously looking for a job within their chosen profession, and all of those contacts can come into play to help make that happen. Here’s how to move forward.
- Touch base with all your contacts
At this point it’s time to get in touch with everyone you have networked with over the last several years. From a simple hello via email to a “can we meet for lunch” catch-up request, you should be quite busy with reaching out.
- Get matched with a mentor
If you’re lucky, you have already found someone who truly wants to help you. If not, speak to your student services department about mentor-matching services they might offer.
- Narrow down your employment options
Start looking seriously at the companies you want to work for and make a point of getting in touch with your contacts there. Make your desire to work there very clear.
- Join professional organizations
Get involved with organizations that represent your chosen profession, including national associations and local branches. If they have networking opportunities, make a point of engaging in those.
- Dive into the working world
If all goes well, by now you will have a degree in hand and a job lined up. No job yet? Step up your networking efforts while you look.
Campus and Community College Networking Resources
According to a 2011 NPR report, up to 80 percent of jobs aren’t published or advertised – most people are hired through personal connections. In order to up your chances of landing that job, keep these resources in mind:
Campus and Community College Networking Resources
These organizations are full of those who have ‘been there, done that’ and are now probably well-established in their careers. They remember their old college fondly and remember the excitement of that first job. Due to this, some of the best networking happens through alumni organizations.
Though their primary job is to ensure you get the proper credits and classes for graduation, academic advisors might also make great networking partners, in that they can help you find internships, put you in classes that you might not have considered and otherwise introduce you to movers and shakers in academics that can help you succeed.
Dive into volunteering, whether on your college campus or in the greater community. Though this might be in an area that fits your eventual career goals, volunteering anywhere help is needed can be a great way to get to know those in the local area.
These Greek organizations can be powerhouses of networking opportunity. Choose one carefully, however – some fraternities or sororities are all about drinking and partying, which doesn’t bode well for the student who wants to build serious contacts.
A mentor is someone who knows the ropes and can guide you through what you need to know, put in a good word for you with certain businesses or organizations, and be available to answer question and address concerns. Mentors might come along naturally through networking, or they might be matched with you through a college program.
Many organizations for professionals also have a division for those who are students in the field. Joining those organizations early can give you access to special networking opportunities that could be the ticket to a great position in your chosen profession.
There are numerous societies and clubs on any college campus, so it should be relatively easy to find at least a few that suit your needs and eventual career goals. Clubs that interest you are always worth a second look.
The College Networking Toolbox
When it comes to doing anything properly, starting out with a good toolbox is a necessity. The networking toolbox is constantly being honed and perfected, starting in college – or even before – and continuing throughout a lifetime. Here’s what students need to tuck into their toolbox in order to succeed with a wide circle of useful contacts.
Expert Advice on College Networking
Becca Garvin is an Executive Recruiter for FGP LLC. Here she offers some valuable advice on how to effectively network in college.
What are some of the most important points college students should remember about networking?
Networking in college requires an emphasis on bridging generational gaps by communicating the value someone of their age can offer (which is a great deal most than many business owners understand) in a way that is seen as professional, therefore understood and received by older generations.
Due to today’s society being so unique, largely in how social media completely dominates marketing and therefore has a huge impact on business success, college students in this day and age have a tremendous skillset to offer future employers: the understanding and abilities that come naturally to them because they have grown up with the trends that are dictating much of what happens in numerous facets of society including business.
That being said, presentation and informative, proactive communication is huge. One stigma attached to college student these days is lack of effort; an entitlement factor is assumed. If students can proactively overcome this and pair it with informative communication tailored to the level of those they are trying to reach, they can open doors much faster than one might expect.
Is LinkedIn really as important as it seems?
LinkedIn is the ultimate networking tool without a shadow of a doubt. This is going off on a rabbit trail so feel free to redirect me if I did not answer that correctly, but having a LinkedIn profile that is professional and informative (tailored to the jobs and industries you want to work in) is so huge in today’s job market. That is the first thing I will look at when searching for people or checking them out after they apply for a role.
Today's students tend to prefer texting over other forms of communication — so just how important is the old-fashioned phone call?
Texting is certainly the preferred method of communication for students today and is becoming more and more popular for people throughout the business world. Let’s be honest, it is quicker than e-mailing and certainly faster than a phone call and much more convenient than both. That being said, the fact remains that there ARE still many people, especially older generations, who find this method of communication to be less professional.
More importantly, phone calls are not only 100 percent necessary, the ability to carry on a conversation on the phone is just as important if not more so than in-person. Depending on the situation, your initial conversation with a hiring manager is likely going to be on the phone. Coming from someone who interviews people all day, I usually do not discredit a candidate based on a pause prior to answering a question I ask, but I certainly do based on “word vomit.” Remember that facial expressions are not visible over the phone, so it is very important that your words make up for lack of appearance because people will create an image of you in their minds based on what they hear.
By far the most important advice I would give someone coming out of school in regards to texting (or communication in general, especially written) is something that I was clueless about when I first graduated college. IF someone opens the “texting” door, you need to watch your verbiage, language and punctuation. This is critical. Texting your friends and family or even someone you know extremely well is different – much different – than communicating with someone professionally.
Social Media: Using it for Networking
The Pew Research Center reports that 65 percent of Americans use social media in some form today, up from a measly 7 percent back in 2005. A whopping 90 percent of young adults are using social media every day. That translates into an enormous amount of networking potential for any college student and aspiring professional.
Much more than a simple way to communicate with friends, social media has become a powerful tool for scoring an interview, landing the perfect job, and building a huge array of contacts. Here are some of the most popular and important social media platforms for networking.
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