Have you ever heard the saying “It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know?” Well that motto directly relates to networking. If you are not familiar with networking, this is something that you should start now as a student and take with you into the work force. Networking is the exchange of information between people that could develop as your community of colleagues and may become your friends.
Networking is a very valuable tool as it allows you to connect and build relationships with others who may or may not be in your industry. Networking will allow you the opportunity to reach out to others and utilize them brainstorm ideas, determine benchmarks, develop mentor relationships, and of course for possible career opportunities.
You should see every interaction with people as an opportunity to network. Your very first exposure of networking may be in the form of family. Career choices can be influenced by a family member or friend of the family. These people will know you best and speak of your character. They will be able to provide insight and advice on their career journey and it may have a positive impact on your journey. When you need an internship, job shadowing experience, and professional interviews these will be your go to people. Your relationship and performance may land you a career opportunity.
Your classmates will serve as the second source of networking opportunities. You will spend an immense amount of time with your classmates throughout your college career. Be mindful of how you interact with others, how you make others feel, your work ethic, and overall relationship with them. There may come a day when you may work with, work for, or rely on their opinion as it could impact your career.
The next group of people that serve as valuable networking tools, are your professors. Believe it or not, your professors are incredibly connected in the field. They were in the field for years (and may still be in the field), they have friends in the field, and they may have access to a variety of professional opportunities. Your professors will also be able to speak of your professional and academic skills. You want to make sure you have a positive review from your professors by attending class and submitting assignments on time, working well with others, positively participating in the classroom, getting involved in your major’s professional organization, writing articles, attending conferences, participating in research opportunities, and volunteering whenever you can. These things will shine a positive light on you and your professors will not hesitate to present professional opportunities to you.
The last source of networking that is available to you is the career development office on campus. If you have no idea where to start, not sure what events to attend, or how to approach potential networking opportunities the career center is the place to start. This will allow you the opportunity to practice, get feedback, and obtain information about upcoming opportunities to network. Stop by and see what services are available to you. The services are free and you should utilize the career center every chance you get.
The most important part of networking is to connect with others, so you will want to have business cards or have your resume handy. If you don’t have either, add the person to your contacts in your phone and be sure to follow-up, so they also know how to contact you.
When it comes to networking, put your best foot forward, be yourself, and showcase your knowledge and skills.