Many recent graduates attempt to enter the business world with a very limited network. This invariably makes starting their early career far more difficult than it needs to be.
To land a position right after graduation, networking in college has become mandatory.
Fortunately, college offers plenty of ways for you to build a solid network and increase your chances at snagging your first job. To help make the most of that opportunity, here are five ways you can establish a great network in college.
1. Remember Names
One of the most basic tips is also one that’s most often forgotten. Remembering names can prove difficult, especially when you meet so many important contacts, but it’s one of the keys to keeping a solid network.
If you’re not the best at keeping names in your head, use techniques such as repeating their name in your head 10-15 times, visualize that you’re writing the name down, or even literally writing their name down on a notepad or smartphone. Practice makes perfect, so it may take a few tries before you start getting the hang of it.
Another critical part in helping you remember names is to get business cards on a first meeting. That way you’ll have their name, the company they work for, and their contact information. And if you want to go further, you can even write down details about the conversation you had on the back of the card.
2. There’s No Shame In Using Your Parents’ Friends
It doesn’t take much to ask your parents if they have friends who work in the industry you’re trying to get in. But several people think there’s shame involved in reaching out to those connections and asking for their help. If that’s what you think, let us be the first to tell you: there’s not.
If your parents’ friend (or friend’s parent) is in the field you’re looking to get in, why would you ignore the massive influence they might have in the industry over a dumb social stigma. In most cases, they’ll be more than happy, flattered even, to help you make it in their industry. All we’re saying is, asking can only help you and not hurt you.
You don’t even need to ask them if they have open positions in their company – simply talking to them about their experiences and listening to any advice they may have to offer could prove invaluable when it comes time to start your job search. Who knows? They may not have open positions at their company, but know people at another company that is looking to hire.
3. Take Advantage of Networking Nights
Depending on what you want to go into, most colleges have industry networking nights – where tons of recruiters set up booths and talk to students about their company and any opportunities they may have. Some even hold interviews right there on campus, which can lead to life-changing opportunities. If you’re nervous about interviewing, many colleges have a ‘success center’ where they hold mock interviews. It’s important to look into the resources your school has to offer.
The majority of majors have student-run organizations that set up these networking nights. If you haven’t heard of one in your specific major, or the professional student club you’re a part of, see if there are any other similar clubs that do or other opportunities locally that let you network with people in your industry.
In college, networking nights help you with skills such as engaging professionally and developing an elevator pitch, both of which are vitally important for any field. Most also require you dress professionally – something you may not be used to yet – so it’s good to get used to it before you enter the next phase of your life.
4. LinkedIn is Your Best Friend
Many students make the unfortunate mistake of thinking they can wait until after college to join LinkedIn. In reality, it’s becoming almost mandatory for HR representatives to look at even for internships. It can also be a valuable tool to join industry groups to build your network and keep up on relevant industry information to help prepare you for your future job.
With LinkedIn, you can follow your dream companies and get updates whenever they publicize an open position, attempt to connect with executives and recruiters at those companies, and keep track of the network you’ve already established. There’s even a section where you can search and apply for relevant jobs and internships right on the site.
Many students don’t see the value in putting time into building their profile and network, but if an employer checks it out and it’s vague or barren, that’s not a very good first impression now, is it? Think about how much time you spend on Facebook (or any other social media site). Divide that by two and that’s all the time you need to spend on maintaining a solid LinkedIn profile each day.
5. Internships Are Crucial
This seems like an obvious tip, but it can’t be stressed enough. Internships enable you to gain invaluable hands-on experience with the industry you’ll be working in for (hopefully) the majority of your life, as well as influential contacts that can either hire you right into their company or recommend you to another one.
Having an internship doesn’t just get you ahead of your career competition. For many positions it’s a requirement to even score an interview. Employers want to know that you have first-hand knowledge of what you’ll be doing in their open position. Truthfully most employers expect you to have professional skills before you even start at the entry level.
Internships let you see through the eyes of the people who work in the industry. That alone will help you determine whether or not you’re making the right choice in what you want to do, and will give you a sense of what to expect when you enter the field.
How do you build your network as a college student? Let us know in the comments below!
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at ComeRecommended!
About the Author: Alex Macksoud is a senior at Central Michigan University studying advertising with a minor in marketing. Aside from being a content creator trainee, Alex is also a social media trainee at Come Recommended. He has heaps of experience in advertising, social media, public relations, content creation, SEO, and marketing – mainly from internships and leadership roles in student organizations.