Networking is key to your success in life. It’s all about who you know. College is probably the best place to build your network because you are surrounded with people who are in the same place of life as you, who are also networking (whether they know it or not), who love helping/mentoring college kids, and it’s where you start your career. Success becomes easier when you know people who have similar interests and goals as you because you can help each other get to where you want to go. I know from personal experience, that my network has been a true asset to me and the potential success of my career. Here are 4 ways you can build your network for success while you’re in college.
1. Meet Someone in Your Class
I know. It’s taboo to talk to people you don’t know in your class. But I’m going to challenge you. Actually, I triple dog dare you. Turn to the person next to you, and say, “Hi, I’m [Insert your name here].” And spark a conversation. Trust me. It works! The people in your class probably have a similar major to you because they’re in the same class as you. You probably have similar career goals or know people. This is also a good way to make friends! ANECDOTE TIME!
I met my good friend Sal from in Research Methods class. After one of our classes we decided to grab lunch. There, I learned that he was in the middle of filming a movie he was producing and writing, was a photographer and designed long boards. One day, when I was doing a tabling event with a nonprofit at school he came to hang out with me while we were just sitting around. The woman at the nonprofit said, “Hey, Cynthia. We have our gala coming up and we need a photographer. Do you know anyone?” ISN’T THAT SO WEIRD? THEY NEEDED A PHOTOGRAPHER AND GUESS WHO I KNEW? SAL! Sal ended up doing that gig and several more events with them. Isn’t that cool?
2. Join a Club
Clubs, social organizations, professional organizations, sororities, fraternities, and any type of college group is the best way for you to find people who have similar goals and interests as you. They always provide great leadership opportunities that allow for a lot of growth. Typically, if the group has been around for a long time, they would also have some sort of alumni association. Just being part of the group gives you leverage on your resume. I’m in a sorority and it’s really easy if I reached to my sisters for a job, and at least one person out of the 200+ knows of someone hiring. Depending on how close you are, you could probably get a recommendation from them!
3. Get to know Your Professors
This is probably one of the easiest things to do, considering your professors have office hours you can just walk in and hang out with them. Your professors are great assets to leverage since they are well into their career. Some of them have probably written plenty of books and knows at least one famous person. They also can help you get an A in your class. The better you get to know your professor, the easier it is when you’re applying for a job or graduate school to ask for a recommendation. Some classes are too big you can get lost in the crowd; it’s up to you to get to know your professors better, you will learn a great deal. I have had professors recommend me for scholarships, to receive exemplary student awards and have even donated to some of my fundraising campaigns. In the time you get to know your professor, they get to know you too. It makes writing great recommendations so much easier.
4. Conduct an Informational Interview
This is by far the most valuable way to build your network. If you can take all of what you’ve built from your network or even use the fact that you’re in college, you can conduct an informational interview. What is an informational interview, you ask? It is an interview you conduct with someone in a field that you might have some interest in. This is a great opportunity for you to educate yourself in a new way. Informational Interviews allow you to learn about that person’s career, how they got to where they are, what work is like and anything you want to know about them. It gives you an idea of what your life could be like. The best part of this is people love talking about themselves. Ask a friend who has a parent in the career you’re looking for. Reach out to a company or organization and find someone who may be willing. It sounds scary at first, but trust me it’s well worth it. The worst that can happen is someone saying, “no.”
These have all been successful tactics for me. It’s given me lots of opportunities for growth and leadership opportunities as well as seeing what my future could look like. I’ve met mentors and have made good friends by use these strategies. If any of these sound really scary, this is the perfect time to challenge yourself and get out of your shell. I believe in you!