One of the most useful skills to develop for professional success is networking.
In their book, What is Networking and Is It Any Different for College Students Than Anyone Else?, Faulkner and Nierenberg acknowledge that many students feel reluctant about networking: “Maybe you would like to network but feel that while you are in college, it may not be the ‘right’ time, or maybe you feel that you don’t have the experience, skills, or abilities to network properly.” But as Heather Krasna, director of career services at the University of Washington's Evans School of Public Affairs, advises U.S. News and World Report, “by the time you're about to graduate, it's getting to be a little late in the day to start building those connections."
If you aren’t blessed with a naturally outgoing personality, it can be tempting to let your relationships with fellow students stop at your dormitory door. You have some great resources for developing this important skill all around you.
Here are six great ways to ease into the practice of networking that even the shyest prospect will find useful:
1. Network Without Ever Leaving Your Dorm Room
Take the advice of fellow collegian, Jordan Friedman, a student at Emory University, who reports on the Huffington Post College Blog, “Job experts told me in interviews that having a LinkedIn profile in an age of technology is absolutely crucial for college students.” Creating an account and profile page on Linkedin, the professional world’s equivalent to Facebook, is an easy way to present your interests and accomplishments and start building connections that lead to future employers.
2. Get the Skinny on Good Classes and Professors
One natural topic of conversation on campus is classes people have taken and professors they’ve had. Asking others what they’ve liked and why is a great way to practice turning a stranger into a networking contact.
3. Take Advantage of Campus Career Services
You can increase your chances of landing a job that will be a great start to your career by visiting your campus’ career services. They are there to help craft your resume and give you the tools you need to jumpstart your job search.
4. Check Out Other Dorms and Living Situations
Inquiring about where other students call home during the school year is another easy way to get a conversation going. Many campuses include special-interest dormitories where career contacts may be easier to come across.
5. Find Clubs and Activities That Support Your Goals
Even if you’re not a “joiner,” consider campus clubs and activity groups. They can tie in with your future career ambitions and provide in-roads to further information and useful contacts.
6. Aim to Intern
Inquire with career services and new-found friends, especially upperclassmen, about how to find those coveted intern spots. If and when you do snag one, take the opportunity seriously. Even if it’s unpaid, the internship is still an opportunity for professional development &emdash it’s not just a resume filler. Take it seriously like you would any other job. You’ll be happy you did it.
Doyle, A. (n.d.). Top 10 tips for networking in college. Retrieved from About.com.
Faulkner, M., & Nierenberg, A. (2013). Networking for every college student and graduate: Starting your career off right. (2nd ed., p. Chapter 1). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458: Pearson. Retrieved from Financial Times Press.
Friedman, J. (2013, January 18). Job networking through social media: The advantages of linkedin for college students. Retrieved from Huffington Post.
Grant, A. (2011, September 28). 6 ways to network while you're in college. Retrieved from U.S. News & World Report.