How to Network in College

What Students Need to Know About Networking in CollegePicture yourself working in your dream role at an ideal company. Now, picture yourself thriving in that role and exceeding all of the expectations set before you. Returning to reality, there’s a question that needs to be discussed: How did you get into that ideal role? Most people can imagine themselves in a new position, but can’t visualize the process of getting to that perfect career. While no one can predict the future, it’s likely that you didn’t get to that dream role completely alone.

There’s a good chance you’ll need help from others to reach your position in the future. This help may come in the form of positive recommendations, expedited interview processes, and an abundance of other employment opportunities. Making connections with people can also allow you to unlock job opportunities after college that you didn’t even know existed. Before you launch into college networking, you must understand what it is, why it’s important, and how to start.


What is career networking?

Career networking is also known as professional networking. It is the process of building connections and utilizing them to help you reach your career goals. These connections can be friends you made during your college experience, colleagues you’ve met in your profession, or past professors. Even a family member who knows of a potential opportunity for you can be considered a professional connection. 

A new connection could help you find a job, identify resume mistakes, introduce a new career path, or aid in the development of leadership skills. The importance of networking is that it is a mutually beneficial relationship. This relationship is a platform for you to receive information and opportunities directly from your connection. You’ll also get to share career advice, insight, and opportunities with others in the process. Eventually, this correspondence may help you advance in your career. 


Why is networking important?

Expanding your network is important because it forms a connection to others in your industry or area. Having fruitful conversations with other people could spark insights that you may not have come up with on your own. Besides that, it can lead you to a diverse range of opportunities. Your network could even help you apply for an internship at a company that you thought wouldn’t be possible. 

Another benefit of networking is that it is extremely useful during the hiring process. For example, there are two candidates for a job. The first candidate has the appropriate qualifications for the job and the employer knows her. The second candidate is just as qualified as the first candidate, but the employer doesn’t know him. Which one would you pick?  There’s a greater chance that the first candidate is picked because the employer already has a working relationship with her. 

In addition, open positions at companies you’re interested in may not be posted to the public right away. These job opportunities are referred to as the hidden job market. As a job-seeker, you’ll only ever hear about these hidden jobs if you know someone in the company. Sometimes, the job postings may even be public. Having ties with people in different companies will boost your chance of winning any open positions.


How do you network?

Once you understand the benefits of networking in college, the next step is learning how to do it. Most people’s idea of networking consists of chatting formally with a potential connection followed by an exchange of business cards. In reality, networking is less transactional. Many of the interactions you have with other human beings could be potential networking opportunities. Be on the lookout for networking events hosted by your college’s career services team or your city’s career center. These events are a great way to interact with peers and professionals in your area. Yet, they are only one way to start networking.

Networking could be as simple as staying in touch with your classmates after your class is over for the semester. Maintaining the connections you’ve already built could be helpful during the job search post-college. Participating in class and asking for help during office hours will help you build a strong relationship with your professors, too. In addition, you can practice relationship building with a broader group of people by getting involved on campus. Being an active part of student organizations and other clubs on campus can benefit you with more future connections.

Sometimes connections can happen virtually. You can create a Linkedin profile or utilize social media to share your achievements and congratulate others on their special accomplishments.  You can also send a quick email or message to an alumni or another professional who works in your desired industry. If you ask to chat over coffee, the worst they can say is no. Additionally, whenever you think about an old friend, text or call them. Reconnecting can sometimes turn into a networking opportunity for both of you. Even starting a conversation with a stranger in the grocery store could lead to a lasting professional relationship.


What else do I need to know about my network?

Professional connections can form from almost any authentic conversations in your life. Just make sure that you’re building relationships for the right reasons. If you befriend a lot of people just to see what they can do for you, you’re not networking correctly. Networking is supposed to be a mutual relationship where both parties benefit, rather than it be one-sided. Just like any relationship, you need to keep in touch even when you don’t need anything from your connections. Some people may be more willing to help you out if they receive help from you. If you come across a relevant job listing or a cool networking event, share it with your network. In time, the others in your network will hopefully do the same. 

Now, you know what networking is, why it’s important, and how to do it. You’re ready to go out and build a network of your own. After all, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” However, this old adage is only partially true. It’s important to have allies and other connections in the workplace and professional environment. Yet, it’s equally important to have the adequate skills needed for a job. You’ll find that your career network will be especially useful during career transitions. You can lean into your network if you’re researching new skills or job hunting.

As a college student, you may feel overwhelmed by this whole idea of networking and meeting other professionals around you. The best thing you could do is to just begin. Start building your skills, online presence, and experiences before you build your contact list. Adding more tools to your toolbelt will help you become a more desirable candidate for job openings. Plus, each of your connections will be more meaningful when you know you made them authentically. Participating in a career network will help you become better equipped to thrive in your dream job.




💼Do you need to sharpen your interview skills? Read 12 Things You Should Never Do in a Job Interview.

👔Did networking land you a new career opportunity? Read about Avoiding Lifestyle Creep.