I know what you’re thinking, college students. You’ve got classes to attend and extracurricular activities to dominate, parties to get dressed up for and an Instagram (or whatever you’re using these days) to update. When it comes to networking, you don’t even know where to start – so in the hustle and bustle of your college life, networking becomes a problem for “future you.”
I’m not suggesting that you spend all of your precious college time worrying about the future, but building your network as a student isn’t the insurmountable task it may seem. In fact, it can be one of the easiest times to make connections. Here are five ways to start building your network now.
Join Student Organizations
Did you know that you can network on campus every single week?
The word “networking” may instantly bring to mind coffee chats with executives at your dream company. But the truth is that your “network” is so much more extensive; it includes your high school friends, your professors, and the people you currently eat cereal with every evening.
The great thing about college is that there are new people to meet all the time, and joining student organizations is an ideal way to grow your network and meet like-minded peers. Not only will you gain experience that you can actually put on your resume, but you’ll meet the people who will work alongside you in your future industry.
Get Involved Off Campus
If you’re a leader of a student organization, look for student competitions, conferences, and summits where you can present your work and meet people from other schools.
You can also look for industry organizations to join. Even groups that are geared towards professionals may have awesome conferences or mentorship programs for students.
You’ll gain access to membership databases, where you can find lots of interesting people to connect with. There are also great conferences like FindSpark’s Find & Follow Your Passion Conference, where you’ll meet recruiters, students, and young professionals while gaining professional skills.
Reach Out to Alumni
As a student, you have an advantage when it comes to reaching out to alumni: they are eager to hear about what’s new on campus and stay connected. If you tend to worry about asking for people’s time, in this case, you know you have something to bring to the table.
And here’s a tip: you may be tempted to go for the hotshot executives, but don’t forget the recent grads. Having just gone through exactly what you’re experiencing now, they’ll not only have some of the most relevant advice, but they’ll be the most eager to pay it forward.
Keep in Touch With Your Connections
If you’ve been an intern, you already have a network. But while you may remember the team you interned with for many years to come, you may be just one of many interns that they have employed.
Take some time once or twice a year to send an email – let them know about relevant courses you’re taking, or ask about their latest projects. With minimal effort, you’ll build long-term relationships and stay top of mind for future opportunities.
Ask Your Parents
This point is last because I don’t want to suggest that having connected parents is key to getting ahead (see ideas 1-4.) But the fact is that your parents might have their own networks to tap into. Plus, if there are two people on the planet who are willing to glowingly recommend you to everyone they know, it’s probably your parents! If they know someone in your chosen field who is willing to chat with you, why not take advantage of it?
However, keep in mind that your parents may not even know which of their contacts could be useful to you. They didn’t necessarily keep track of where everyone ended up, and they may not be aware of all of the companies you are interested in. So you may want to browse their connections on LinkedIn, or ask if you can do some searches through their profile to see their second degree connections.
What’s your favorite way to network in college? Share your ideas in the comments.