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How to Network in College

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This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. This is a common expression indicating that developing social connections with the people you meet is beneficial, but does this saying hold any truth?

Well, yes and no. As you begin to enter into the workforce, you will notice a variety of factors that can influence whether you land a job. Actually possessing the work experience and technical skills required to carry out your day to day tasks is a crucial part of getting an interview, but sometimes just being qualified is not enough to receive a job offer.

Your level of education, where you studied, and the recommendations you receive from current employees at the workplace you are applying to can make all the difference between you and the rest of the applicant pool. While some of these things can be out of your control, you still have a way to distinguish yourself from others.

Interacting with individuals with insight on how to reach your career goals makes achieving them significantly easier. The practice of creating relationships with people who have more experience and resources than you is called networking.

You may have already unknowingly done so just by visiting your career center at your school, asking for professional advice from someone you admire, or requesting a reference letter from a former employer.

While you can practice networking almost everywhere you go, one central place to do it is in college. After all, it never hurts to have friends in high places! 

During your time in university, you will get to interact with faculty from a wide range of academic and professional backgrounds. Professors, lecturers, and teacher assistants are not only helpful for getting recommendation letters, but they are also an important group of people to prioritize speaking with outside of class.

If you are lucky, they may even know of open job positions for you to pursue such as assisting them in their research or projects, scholarship programs to apply to, and resources to support your career.

Professors can also give you advice on forging your own career path, and that in itself can be informative when making steps towards your goals in the future.

Focus on seeking out guidance from educators you have a strong relationship with, those instructing classes related to your major, and those teaching courses you are interested in exploring.

Returning alumni, guest lecturers, and visiting professors from other colleges also bring in opportunities to broaden your network. Actively look for chances to attend events they are hosting or seminars they are leading so you can converse with them.

Talk about your career interests, skills you have, and work experience you may have already had that relates to the field you aspire to be in. As always, keep in contact with the people you meet well after graduation as you never know when you will need their expertise! 

How To Land Your Dream Internship

Social media and websites are the easiest ways to network with people that are not physically near you. LinkedIn is one popular website to do your networking.

Set up a LinkedIn profile and add your university to the education section as well as any activities and societies you are a part of. After adding your education, LinkedIn automatically introduces you to a list of the current and former students on its platform associated with your college.

You have the option to “connect” with them and request to be a part of their network. Choose those working in careers you see yourself in, and if they accept your invitation you will be able to message them and see the other people this individual knows, allowing you to expand your professional network of people.

Additionally, search and follow companies and organizations you are interested in working with, and pay close attention to those who are already employed. Employees sometimes post about job openings not shown on their company’s profile.

Your college classmates and friends can be the most unlikely way to get involved in new opportunities. Hearing about the work experience that your peers have done or resources they utilize can be beneficial to you while you are seeking your own experience to add to your resume.

The first internship I received was through a friend who had graduated two years before me in high school. Her college roommate was starting a nonprofit on their campus and was looking for interns.

My friend knew I was eager to get an internship before I started applying to colleges, but I was struggling to find one, so she told me about the organization and then recommended me for the position after I applied.

When I received the position, I connected with everyone in the nonprofit through LinkedIn, and from there I learned about the jobs that they had done in fields I was also interested in exploring. You never know who someone knows.

In turn, if you know of any information that could benefit your friends and classmates, let them know.

Speak with your college advisor about how to start your career. Advisors oversee students to ensure that each one is managing their studies, but they are also there to guide you towards entering the professional world.

Advisors are knowledgeable about what work opportunities and programs students have done to find success in their respective fields in the past. Next time you stop by your advisor’s office, express your interest about a career path and/or your uncertainty about what jobs to explore. 

Networking is a skill, and like any skill, the more you practice it, the better you will be at applying it. The opportunities to network exist everyday in a place like college, doing so creates a strong foundation of people you can lean on long after graduation and into the successful career you built.

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Author: Sophia Bangura

Virtual High School '22 read, write, repeat (in that order)!