The college experience isn’t mostly about academics: It’s a great time to get a jump start on your professional development. Networking during your formative years of higher education can help you land a job after graduation. In fact, according to one study, 78% of applicants who were recent college grads stated networking was a big factor in their job searches. Here’s a closer look at how you can build a professional network while in college.
We’ve all heard the adage, “It’s not what you know but who you know,” when it comes to finding a job. Networking is imperative because it helps you form relationships with people who can get you to where you want to go. The earlier you start building a professional network in college, the better. A great way to get started is by creating a LinkedIn account, which lets you discover and stay in touch with professional contacts. These include employers, recruiters, industry experts and other passionate, career-driven individuals.
LinkedIn also makes it convenient to reach out to alumni, as they’re often happy to help put you in touch with other professionals they know as well as offer career advice. This is true for professors, too. If you’re interested in a particular subject area, don’t be afraid to reach out to professors in that field. One could end up becoming your mentor who changes your life’s trajectory.
Consider completing an internship to get your foot in the door in your field of choice. Even if it doesn’t end in a job, you can still meet individuals who may connect you with other opportunities. Your colleagues can also serve as references for future jobs. Another way to develop connections is by getting involved on campus. For example, by joining sports, clubs, honor societies, frats, sororities, etc., you can meet a wide variety of people and build relationships with peers, mentors, advisers, coaches and more. Volunteering and obtaining a part-time job are also great ways for establishing professional connections.
Make the effort to attend in-person or virtual networking and industry events. This lets you connect with like-minded individuals with whom you can discuss topics that are related to your discipline. Be sure to dress the part, engage in conversation and ask questions. If you connect with a particular professional, make sure to send him or her a follow-up email.
For more information on how to bolster your professional network while in college, see the accompanying resource.