Whether you’re a transfer student or just new to college life, networking can seem like a daunting endeavor. First of all, what is “networking”? Is it just a buzzword? How do you do it, and where do you even start? Here is quick crash course on what it is, and how to go about networking to your fullest potential!
Networking comes in different shapes and sizes. In this case, we will refer to networking in a college setting. The aim is to be able to present yourself well in a conversation or series of conversations to achieve a particular goal you have, such as to build a relationship, to land a job interview, or to gain advice.
You might be networking with other students in class and build a peer relationship. This can be more casual, but these networks come in handy when you have group projects and want to work with other students you can trust. You’ll also be networking with your professors and advisors. This is important because they have many connections and resources, and may be more willing to share them with you once you’ve established a rapport with them. Or, you might be networking at a job fair or with potential employers. Often, you are trying to leave a good impression on them so they will look at your resume or offer you an interview. I’ll go into detail on how to network within the 3 groups below:
1. Networking with students. This involves getting to know the people in your classes, clubs, and at work. This group can be invaluable because they share similar experiences, and may be able to introduce you to others. The easiest way to get to know your peers is just to talk to them—for example, in class you can strike up a conversation with someone sitting near you and then ask for his or her phone number. Now you have a contact in the class if you need a study buddy or just want to clarify an assignment. Add people on social media and make an effort to get to know them and build a mutually beneficial relationship.
2. Networking with professors and advisors. Your current professors and advisors are usually accessible because you can go to office hours or set up an appointment. Make sure you help them put a face to your name. It’s even more important to take time to introduce yourself if you are in a big class!
For professors or advisors you don’t directly interact with, but would like to, don’t be afraid to cold email! You can give a quick introduction of yourself and say something along the lines of “I would love to learn more about… If you have some time available, can we set up a quick meeting to chat?” Faculty and staff are usually very receptive to this sort of thing because they want to help students.
3. Networking at a job fair or with potential employers. This requires more research about yourself and the company. For yourself, have your resume and elevator pitch ready. If you are hitting up a job fair, know what companies you want to see and where they’re located. Research the specific company so you are an informed candidate with prepared questions. Introduce yourself and provide a little background about yourself, but focus on asking questions and listening to what they have to say. After the event, make sure you send a follow-up thank you email. This is also an opportunity to ask further questions.
Networking is so valuable because people are more likely to help you or offer you opportunities if you’ve built a connection with them. Once you’ve built a relationship, don’t forget that you need to maintain it! The best way to do so in a professional setting is to catch up with them (through email, phone call, or in-person meeting) about once every half-year to learn about what they’re up to and update them about your life and goals as well.
Let us know in the comments if you want more details on a particular aspect of networking, or if you have any other tips! Good luck networking!
– Michelle L.