Sunday, November 18, 2012

How to Network in College

If there is one thing important to do in college today (besides getting the grades and making it to class in the morning), it is networking. While you are in college, you have a distinct advantage when it comes to networking: you are surrounded by people who want you to succeed.



1. Professors

Professors may not give you a job in the future, but they will give some outstanding references. The easiest way to get to know your professors is to visit them during their office hours, or be active in class. If you're shy and rather not speak up in their classroom, just go talk to them afterwards and ask them questions (how could I do better on this paper?). Showing an interest in their class will make them have an interest in you.

2. Internships

Internships are a tough subject right now. Unpaid internships are on the rise, and often they are illegal. Be careful when entering an unpaid internship, it is only legal if you are learning new things, not doing work that an office worker would be doing. However, unpaid internships at non-profits are legal and are considered volunteering. In addition, many unpaid internships can provide you with class credit which can be very rewarding as well. Basically, don't turn immediately away from an unpaid internship - if you can get class credit out of it and you are not working many hours a week, it may be well worth it.

Internships will provide you with people who can see the work effort you put forth, provide fantastic references, and can put you in the running for potential positions there in the future. Some of my best references come from an internship I did at a non-profit and they have helped me gain other positions.

3. Part Time Jobs

You may not need to work, but you should. If you really do not need to work, be picky in what you choose. Aim for positions that you can relate to your career goal in some way. I worked at big box electronics retailer in customer service for a year, and while it was not a glamorous job in any way, it helped me gain the position I have now. In addition, part time jobs provide you with people who can potentially help you out down the road, and managers to give you references. If you are working with customers, you could even build a network through them.

4. Special Events

I am willing to bet that your school offers a lot of special events that feature speakers or professionals. You likely even have speakers come to your class. These are a great opportunity to get out there, learn something, and network all at the same time. After the speaker is done talking, ask them a question related to their subject, and then go and speak to them personally if you are able to.

6. LinkedIn

After you have met all of these people, connect with them on LinkedIn, not Facebook. The only people I have added on my Facebook are friends from part time positions that I still hang out with frequently, not managers or other professionals I have worked with. LinkedIn also serves as a great reminder, and make sure you send a quality message even if it is brief. "Hi, we spoke briefly after your talk on x, I really enjoyed your speech," is more than enough.

6. Always have business cards!

This is a great time to start having some contact cards. Get some cheap ones with just your name, your university, your major, and your email address on them. Hand them out when you simply need an easy way for people to contact you. If you have a smartphone, you could also get away with downloading the LinkedIn app and adding them right then and there.

Good luck with networking, and if you have any questions about specific ways to network, please comment below!

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