How to Network in College
We’ve all heard the old saying, “It’s not about what you know, but who knows you,” and there certainly is truth to this. 80% of jobs are not advertised, according to Howard Poplinger, owner of human resource company Epic Development and Evaluation. What does this mean for the college student? Because the majority of job positions that are fulfilled are extended through personal and professional contacts and connections, networking while in college can put you ahead of the game and help you better prepare for life after college.
The idea of networking in college may seem intimidating and a lot of work, but there are simple steps you can take that will naturally and rapidly expand your network. Here are four ways to network in college to get you started.
1. Create a LinkedIn profile
Creating a LinkedIn profile is a good first step to make in your networking efforts. By being active on LinkedIn, maintaining professional connections you make as you network will be easy and convenient. Most importantly, having a LinkedIn profile with up-to-date information, such as your education, experience, qualifications, skills, and involvement with organizations, can expand upon what you can normally fit on a one-page resume and increase your chances of “wowing” a potential employer.
Once you’ve completed your profile, send a connection request to as many people as you can, including friends, family, and colleagues. LinkedIn makes it easy to find your friends by linking your profile with Facebook and e-mail. Having a solid number of connections can help your profile come across as more credible to potential employers; at the same time, it’s not necessarily a good practice to send requests to people you don’t know.
2. Become more involved on campus
Becoming more involved on campus is a way to interact and develop relationships with a wide range of people, both peers and faculty, and to learn about future professional opportunities. Here are a few ways that you can get involved on campus for networking purposes:
- Ask professors to keep you posted on current/future opportunities to get involved in research or academic projects – Developing relationships with professors is a great way to open the doors for internship and job possibilities, career advice and counseling, as well as having solid references when it comes time to apply for work.
- Join campus student clubs and organizations – Often these clubs and organizations interact with faculty members and professionals from the local community, which can be a great way to quickly expand your network.
- Attend networking events – Check with your campus’s career resource center to learn about future networking events. Bring some copies of your resume, dress professionally, and make an effort to make new professional connections.
3. Apply for an internship
Getting an internship won’t always result in you being hired with that particular company for permanent work, but it will help you expand your professional network with others who can provide valuable first-hand insight into and advice regarding the field you are hoping to go into. Check for internship opportunities with your department head, or through your campus’s career resource center.
4. Arrange informational interviews
An informational interview is an arranged meeting (either in-person or by phone) with someone in which you ask questions in order find out more about the field you’re hoping to go into, or to learn about what sorts of job positions exist that you might be good at in general. An informational interview is not you asking for a job, but rather you asking for advice and also other possible networking connections to continue your research.
If reaching out to a complete stranger and asking for an informational interview is not something that you feel comfortable with, chances are you probably already know someone who can provide you with valuable career advice! Take some time to think about who you know that has a job loosely related to the field you are interested in – friends, family, or faculty – and write their name down. Make it a goal to reach out to five of them over the next couple weeks, and ask if you can arrange a time to ask them some questions about their career, and advice about your future career prospects. At the end of the informational interview, ask if they know anyone else you should speak to in order to learn more about the field. You could end up with new valuable professional connections through someone you already know!
The final word
The above listed ways to network in college will take some effort and creativity on your part, but the payoff in the long run can be enormous. You may meet someone who will know about an open non-posted position at their company and recommend you to apply directly with their manager!