In college and university, the connections you make matter. Unfortunately, many students overlook the essential skill of networking when searching for a job, internship, or reference.
Networking helps you build genuine relationships, establish your presence, and create professional opportunities. Students who master this valuable skill can jumpstart their careers even before graduation.
A 2020 LinkedIn survey showed that over 70% of people get hired because someone they know made an introduction or connection. This survey also states that hiring managers are 52% more likely to interview a candidate referred to them by someone in their network.
Networking may seem complex, but it is simpler than you might think. In this article, we will give you 9 practical tips to help you make the most out of each networking experience.
1. Start as Early as Possible
Many students believe that you have to wait until graduation to start networking. This could not be any more wrong.
The earlier you start networking, the more seeds you can plant throughout your academic journey. Those seeds can eventually grow into fields of professional opportunities. No matter your year, there is no wrong time to start building relationships.
Getting started is the hardest part. But once you get going, it only gets easier from there.
It is important to note that starting early does not mean to rush yourself. Your life is not a race. Relish in your adventurous college years. But enjoy your life while giving yourself permission to meet more people.
2. Talk to Other Students and Alumni
Remember, you are not the only student trying to form a network. Most students in your classes are in the same boat as you.
Get to know your classmates. This can introduce you to new friends who can help you find a job or internship, and who you can form strong relationships with. You can also exchange opportunities you find in each other's respective fields.
Along with current students, connect with recent grads. Career expert and HelloHive CEO, Byron Slosar, discussed this method during an interview with CNBC. He says this is very useful because alumni are more likely to provide "timely job insight".
Slosar also states, "You are increasing the likelihood of leveraging someone who has just been through the interview process and was successful in the eyes of the company."
This networking tactic can be beneficial for college students nearing graduation. LinkedIn is a great way to connect with alums, and your school’s alumni network probably has a social media presence - but be sincere in your connection messages and avoid spamming people. When reaching out, try highlighting your connection and acknowledging their work so that you can introduce yourself and form a connection before asking for their insight.
3. Use Social Media to Your Advantage
Today, the most popular way to network is via social media. Social media is a powerful networking tool, providing instant access to a global network of people, groups, and businesses.
If you are not already on social media, now is the best time to make that account.
You can create your own platform and showcase your personality with every post. This allows potential employers to learn more about you and gives you the chance to make a positive first impression.
You can use this digital innovation to connect with brands, stay updated on job listings, and chat with employees about the company.
Social media is not just a place to watch short, funny videos. It is also where life-changing connections can be made.
4. Join Clubs and Find Networking Events
Colleges and universities are home to many internal networking opportunities. There are clubs that support almost every interest, and club events frequently occur on campus. This can be a great way to network with people who share your passions and hobbies. Career centers and job fairs are other great places to network and find job opportunities. Make sure to stay on alert for any events hosted by your school.
Networking events are not only limited to campus grounds. There are plenty events you can find online. Platforms like Eventbrite or Meetup can help you find virtual and local communities specific to your field and interests. You can also use social media platforms like Meta or LinkedIn to discover relevant online groups.
When joining clubs or organizations, pick ones that you are genuinely interested in. Having a shared interest makes it easier to spark conversation with others. At first, it may seem scary, but remember that most people there are experiencing the same feelings. If you start the interaction by being authentic, it can ease the tension for everyone involved.
5. Focus on Proving Value, Not Getting Hired
When networking, many individuals, particularly young students, often make the mistake of trying too hard to get hired.
The point of networking is not to "get a job" - it is to meet people, build fulfilling relationships, and find places to provide value to others. Remember, it is called networking, not self-working. You will go further in life by helping everyone you meet instead of thinking of ways that they can help you.
People hire teammates, not employees.
So, when you start networking, ask yourself this one question before each interaction:
"What can I do to make this person's life easier?"
Sometimes you cannot help them, but they will remember you and maybe refer you to someone you can help.
"Adding value to others is the surest way to add value to our own lives" - John Maxwell
6. Ask for Help
If you are having trouble networking or feel like you have hit a roadblock, asking for help is always best. There is nothing wrong with asking the people around you for advice.
Along with friends and family, you can ask professors, counselors, or career coaches who have undergone the same process.
If you want help, all you have to do is ask.
"Ask for help. Not because you are weak. But because you want to remain strong." - Les Brown
7. Practice Networking
Treat networking the same as anything else you want to get better at. Improvement comes from practice. Imagine every networking event as a workout session for your social skills. Each rep (interaction) helps you get one step further out of your comfort zone.
A helpful mini tip for expanding your comfort zone is attending networking events outside your field of interest. This will help you gain diverse perspectives, extend your network, and practice adaptability.
For example, if you are in the photography industry, try talking to people in the automotive communities. Someone in the cooking space can interact with the medical or fashion industries. Some of the best networking opportunities may be where you least expect them.
There is something to learn from everyone.
8. Have a Goal in Mind
It is crucial to establish goals before networking with others. Before any networking event, try to identify the people you plan to talk to and what kind of relationship you want to build with them. Creating a list of goals can help you clarify your intentions for each interaction.
For example, before an event, whether it is virtual or in-person, identify at least 5 people who you want to connect with and how you can help each other.
Meaningful interactions are memorable ones.
So, to give your conversations purpose and make them meaningful, set goals and prepare beforehand. Researching the event and the guestlist, writing out a few talking points, and getting into the right mindset will help you network purposefully.
9. Build Soft Skills
Most students who graduate leave college with similar core skills. But one set of skills can set you apart from the rest.
Soft skills are an essential part of networking. As a matter of fact, they can be the deciding factor in the hiring process for companies. LinkedIn's Global Talent Trends 2019 report shows that over 90% of companies reported that soft skills are equally or more important than hard skills when hiring candidates.
In today's business world, employers seek more than just work experience. They value clear communication, active listening, creativity, self-awareness, and initiative. Personality and attitude leave a deeper imprint on people's minds than a resume does.
As the old saying goes, "Your network is your net worth".
Communicating and bonding with others is a skill that pays dividends on your success. Networking can be challenging to navigate, though. These practical tips will help you on your professional journey.
No matter your year of study, background, or future plans, networking is beneficial for everyone. This skill increases your chances of getting a job and creates a foundation for fulfilling life-long relationships.
Believe it or not, you practice networking daily in your regular conversations. Now, it is time to hone this skill and use it to your advantage.
What can you do to start building your network right now?
Let us know in the comments below 💬👇
Helping jobseekers take their next step. Helping Job Seekers Take their Next Step. (2020,
McLaren, S. (2019, March 20). Here’s how you can measure soft skills effectively in 6 steps.
Here’s How You Can Measure Soft Skills Effectively in 6 Steps. https://www.linkedin.com/business/talent/blog/talent-acquisition/soft-skills-are-hard-to-assess-but-these-steps-can-help