Networking sounds like a scary word. I remember when I was a freshman at Mississippi State University and my teachers would constantly say, “you need to network.” Also, extracurricular activity advertisements at school would always say that you should “increase your network” or “work on your networking skills.” At first, that word scared me. I thought, “how do I network?” I had no clue where to begin, but the truth is that I had already begun, and it’s not as intimidating as you might think. Here are some hints on how to network as a college student.
Photo: Anastasia Dulgier on Unsplash
Be kind to everyone you come into contact with. This might sound like a cliché, but if you are kind to everyone, you will build up a reputation for being nice. With a kind reputation, a positive network will be created. Kindness should be a part of everything you do, and it is crucial to be kind while networking. Treat everyone with respect. You do not want to be known as mean, rude, or vulgar among your peers or superiors, especially if you are trying to find a job or internship.
Be involved in extracurricular activities on campus. Especially if activities are related to your field of study. It is one thing to sign up for a club on campus that relates to your major, but it is another thing to actually be involved. Do not sign up just so you can get a t-shirt. Use your club meetings and events as opportunities to network with your fellow students. By getting to know your fellow club members, you might be able to find a job or internship.
Try to find common ground with everyone you talk to. When meeting new people try to find something in common with them, even if it is as simple as you both love Harry Potter. Whatever it is, find that common ground. Common ground can lead to a lot of great conversations and recruiters are more likely to remember candidates who had common ground with them. Ask people about their likes and dislikes because you never know what common ground you can find with that person.
Listen to people. Communication involves both talking AND listening. Talking too much is usually not a good idea. People love to be listened to. Ask questions about their job, especially if you want a job that is similar to theirs, ask about their college experience, get to know them, and make that person feel important.
Create a LinkedIn account. This website has changed how networking works forever. LinkedIn is free and makes networking easy. Adding people to your ‘connection’ will increase your network. Sign up for one today!
Actually use your LinkedIn account. Make sure you actually use your account. Post updates about school, work, and your life in general. Upload coursework that you’re proud of, certificates that you earn, and whatever makes you look successful. It is so pointless to set up an account and not actually use it. If you set up an account and don’t use it, you might as well not have an account at all!
Do NOT hide behind a computer screen to do all your networking. With the increasing popularity of LinkedIn and social media, a lot of social interaction and networking is done over a phone, tablet, or computer. This is very convenient, but you should also go out, talk to people, have a firm handshake, and use good social skills in order to have a positive social interaction.
Networking is crucial in order to be successful in most industries, making the pressure to network intense. However, networking can be fun, rewarding, and it is easier than you think! What tips do you have for successful networking?
Julia Harrelson is a twenty-one-year-old at Mississippi State University, double-majoring in business administration and fashion merchandising, with a minor in marketing. When she's not studying, she is still studying. She is interested in business, lifestyle, and learning any and all things in the fashion industry. Julia hopes to be a merchandise buyer when she graduates.