What Students Need to Know About Networking in College

What Students Need to Know About Networking in CollegePicture yourself working in your dream company in your ideal role. 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 about that dream. How did you get into that ideal role? Most people will imagine themselves performing tasks with ease in their new elevated position, but few will imagine the process of how they managed to arrive in that position. Although no one can predict the future, there’s a good chance that you didn’t get to that dream role completely alone.

You’ll probably need the help of others to reach your dream position in the future. This help may come in the form of positive recommendations, expedited interview processes, and an abundance of other employment opportunities. For this reason, it’s important to make connections with people to find internships and unlock job opportunities after college that you didn’t even know existed. Before you build relationships and start networking, you must first understand what it is, why it’s important, and how to put your networking in action.


What is career networking?

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

Those who are in your network could help you find a job, learn more about your current career field, introduce you to a new and exciting career path, or help you develop a certain leadership skill. 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, which may help you advance in your career. You’ll also get to share career advice, insight, and opportunities with others in the process. 


Why is networking important?

Building your network is important because it forms a connection to others in your industry or area. You can share information, advice, and experiences with other people, leading to new insights that you may not have come up with on your own. Besides that, it can lead you to a diverse range of opportunities and help you get an entry-level position at companies that you thought wouldn’t be possible. 

Networking is also 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 is familiar with her. 

When an employer has a position that needs to be filled, it may not always be posted to the public right away; these job opportunities are referred to as the hidden job market. As a person looking for a job, you’ll only ever hear about these “hidden” jobs if you know someone in the company. Even if the job is posted to the public, having ties with people in all sorts of companies will boost your chance of winning the position. 


How do you network?

Once you understand what networking is and why it’s important, the next step is learning how to do it. Most people’s idea of networking might consist 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. The career services team at your college or the employment and career center in your city may offer networking events to interact with other students, college faculty, and business professionals in your area. This is a great place to start, but it’s only one of the many ways you can start to build meaningful professional connections. 

Simply staying in touch with your classmates after your class is over for the semester is a way to maintain connections you’ve already built. You’ll also want to build a strong relationship with your professors by participating in class and asking for supplementary help during office hours. In addition, participating in student organizations, clubs, and other activities your college offers is a great way to make a connection with a broader group of people. 

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. It’s also possible to send an email to an alumni or another professional who works in your desired industry, and ask them to grab a coffee. Reconnecting with a text or phone call to an old friend when you think of them can sometimes turn into a networking opportunity for both of you. Lastly, even striking up a conversation with someone at a party or the grocery store can lead to a lasting relationship in your professional life. 


What else do I need to know about my network?

After you’ve learned that professional connections can form from almost any authentic conversations in your life, you’ll also want to make sure that you’re connecting with people 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 with your connections even when you don’t need something from them. 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 the like-minded individuals that make up your network. In time, the others in your network will hopefully do the same. 

Now that 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. You’ll find that your career network will be useful during a job search or when you want to try something completely new. Furthermore, there’s an old adage for advancing in your career: “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” 

Consequently, this phrase is partially true. Networking is important; it’s important to have allies and other connections in the workplace and professional environment, but it’s just as important to have the adequate skills needed for a necessary job. 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 start building your skills and experiences before you build your contact list. Adding more tools to your tool belt, so to speak, will help you become a more desirable candidate for job openings and make each of your connections that much more meaningful. Creating a mutually beneficial career network will help you become better equipped to take on your dream job and be able to thrive in that position. 




💼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.