College is a place to build the foundation for the rest of your life. Primarily, you are acquiring the knowledge, experience, and skills to start your career.
Secondly, you are building relationships and connections to grow your network. This network will act as a pool of resources you can rely on for opportunities, services, advice, and more.
You have likely been told how important networking is, but are you taking action? Is networking something you say you will do eventually or is it something you are doing now? Don’t wait until after college to network.
Benefits of Networking in College
Start networking during college because college offers the greatest opportunity you will have to meet new, like-minded people. You are exposed to tens of thousands of diverse individuals over your years.
- Working professionals
Personally, when I graduated I found it harder to expand my network. You have to go out of your way to meet people. This is why it is imperative to network before you graduate.
Here are the main benefits of networking in college:
- Connections you build can lead to opportunities down the line
- Genuine friendships can develop
- You’ll get of your shell and hone your social skills
- The results of networking will enrich your college experience
20 Tips on How to Build Your Network in College
I’ll divide the 20 tips into two sections.
The first section focuses on tips that help you put yourself in a position to network. You can’t network without having access to others.
The second section shares tips on networking skills. Once you are in a position to network, how do you do so and what do you implement? That’s what will be covered.
Giving Yourself the Opportunity to Network
1. Always be networking
Firstly, you should keep networking in mind at all times. Whether you are at a networking event, in class, at work, at the gym, or anywhere else, always consider how someone could add value to your network.
This doesn’t mean you have to be in a networking mode 100% of the time. Go about your days naturally, but have some awareness on how any individual can become a part of your network. You never know what opportunities can result from simple interactions.
2. Keep an open mind to new connections
To build connections in college, you have to be willing to do so. Keep an open mind to everyone.
If you are a business major, don’t close yourself off from others who aren’t business majors. Someone in the school of arts may know someone who can help you in business. Again, you never know.
Don’t judge people too quickly.
3. Be approachable
Networking won’t always require you to seek out connections. Sometimes, connections can come to you. For that to happen, you have to be approachable.
Be someone that others are comfortable approaching and interacting with. Keep a positive energy with smiles and eye contact. If you are intimidating or give off a negative vibe, people aren’t going to talk to you.
4. Get heavily involved on campus
I HIGHLY recommend you become involved on campus. This is key to increasing your exposure to others. Join clubs and organizations across campus.
See this post: Why You Should Join Clubs in College (12 Benefits)
These opportunities can include:
- Student government
- Greek life
- Intramural sports
- Major-specific clubs
- Clubs for volunteering and service
Nearly all the connections I made in college came from a club I was a part of. The networking opportunities are plentiful and being involved has other benefits as well. Extracurriculars will:
- Provide leadership opportunities
- Help you make friends
- Build up items for your resume
- Teach you skills for your life and career
5. Visit your campus career center
Your career center on campus is a great source to find connections. Get to know the employees that work in the career center.
They can help you directly or tap into their resources and connections to set you up with other opportunities and individuals.
6. Engage with professors and faculty
Don’t shy away from interacting with your professors and other faculty members. Your professors aren’t solely there to teach. They are there to guide as well. See them as individuals who have wisdom in the field they lecture on.
For example, a professor for your corporate finance class is likely well-connected and experienced in corporate finance. If you are looking to start your career in corporate finance, it’d make sense to connect with them.
Most professors appreciate an enthusiastic student and are willing to help.
7. Connect with alumni
Alumni have a strong sense of pride for their university and love to see others from their university succeed. If they work at a prestigious firm, they are happy to see others from their alma mater in the firm as well.
You can connect with alumni in person at sporting events, networking events, and through your university’s alumni association.
Online, you can use a resource like LinkedIn to find graduates from your school working for the companies and industries you are looking to break into.
8. Attend social events
This tip shouldn’t be hard to implement because it’s a fun one.
Attend all the social events you can. You will meet people, make friends, have a good time, and enrich your overall college experience. Who doesn’t want that?
Put yourself out there and keep networking in mind during all events you attend.
9. Attend networking events
Sometimes events will be organized for the sole purpose of networking. Individuals come together looking to meet others and provide value to each other.
10. Attend industry events
Industry events can include a variety of events that companies in an industry will host. If you are a finance major, large investment banks may hold mixers, competitions, and conferences for prospective and current professionals in the industry.
These events offer opportunities to meet like-minded individuals for the career path you want to have.
Your campus career center will usually have a calendar for these events, so search there first. After that, you can find these events on social media or on a company’s website. Keep an eye out for them.
11. Network at your internships
Once you are in your first internship, meet as many people as you can in the company. You will learn from them and have a great opportunity to network. These professionals are in the field and if they like you, a few things can happen:
- They will hire you for their team
- They will refer you to someone else’s team within the same company
- Or, they may refer you to someone else they know in a different company
Learn from those around you during your internship and provide as much value as you can. In return, you may find yourself with an immediate opportunity or at least a connection that can lead to an opportunity years ahead.
12. Develop your online presence
The internet has allowed us to connect with anyone across the world. Start building your online presence through social media, especially LinkedIn. Create a LinkedIn account and read our post on optimizing your LinkedIn profile. You want to create an attractive profile that employers can find you on.
Other forms of social media can be helpful with networking too. On Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you can interact with friends, colleagues, etc. Small and simple interactions help nurture relationships and keep your name and face relevant to others.
It’s easier to ask someone for help if you are consistently having conversations online.
13. Talk to relatives and your friends’ relatives
Finally, utilize your relatives and the relatives of your friends. You already have trust built with this group and they will be the most willing to help you.
If you have been a great friend to someone, they will happily connect you to someone their mom, uncle, or grandfather knows.
Networking Skills to Execute
Now we are onto the second section of the tips. These are skills and behaviors you should implement to help with your networking in college.
14. Think long-term and do the little things right
In every action, consider how what you are doing will affect the long-term.
Do the little things right as much as you can. In school, answer a question every class to connect with a professor. Be a good friend to others in the extracurriculars you are in. At your internship, talk to your colleagues about their interests.
These are all small in the moment, but people will remember this micro-moments. Being a good person will get you rewarded.
15. Nurture your connections
Making a connection is half of the equation. Nurturing a connection is the other half. You don’t want to meet someone once and have them forget about you. Keep interacting with that person frequently so you stay familiar to them.
Go out on the weekends with a group you don’t usually hang out with. Comment on someone’s photo on Instagram. Text another person happy birthday.
If a connection fades, the potential opportunities fade as well.
16. Be a conversation starter
You’ll have to be willing to start conversations if you want to build your network in college.
Get in the habit of talking to new people. If you are shy, it will take some time to build up confidence, but you’ll eventually become comfortable.
17. Listen more than you talk
Being a good listener is a key to networking.
No one wants to be around someone who talks all the time and doesn’t care to listen. By listening to someone, you will make them feel important and valued, which makes them feel good.
People like helping others that make them feel good. Be conscious of how much you are talking when having a conversation.
18. Be genuine
If you approach networking the wrong way, you can come off as ingenuine to the person you are interacting with. They may see right through you and feel that you are only talking to them so you can get something out of it.
You want to be genuine in your interactions. You don’t want to be seen as someone who is fake and only out for themselves. Focus on building relationships and friendships.
19. Don’t always expect something in return
Going off the tip above, you shouldn’t always expect something in return for things you do.
Just because you helped a professor with grading papers does not mean that the professor owes you an introduction to a company.
20. Provide value to others
Do things for others because it is the right thing to do. A byproduct of helping others is that others will be willing to help you. Not all the time, but most of the time.
When you focus on providing value to your network, that value will eventually find its way back to you. Results may not always be immediate, but over time, those who give value will receive value.
Networking is critical to your life and career. It’s always a good idea to have a group of people in your life that you can seek help or advice from.
College is a special time in your life where you are surrounded by tens of thousands of like-minded individuals. Take advantage of this and connect with as many people as you can.
Put yourself out there and focus on being a good person, building relationships, maintaining those relationships, and providing value. Your network will surely be beneficial throughout your life.