Networking as a college student
So, an important thing that you’ll have to do in college is networking. Let’s face it, knowing people in the business you’re going into is essential.
But how do you meet said people? How can you connect with strangers?
I’ll tell you.
- Build your online profile. Many people say, “oh, I can get a LinkedIn when I start looking for a full time job.” NO. Start now. Add all of your projects, skills, and experience (if any) to show you off. You can even generate a resume from your LinkedIn profile, how great is that? The next step here is actually connecting with people. Join groups you’re interested in, follow companies, and add people from whom you want to ask questions. Soon you’ll have your own network going there for people to introduce you to others and as a public profile for potential employers. Take it a step further and build your own personal website. There’s all kinds of free site makers out there, or if you’re really ambitious, you can make your own from scratch! If you want some inspiration, check out mine. I bet you can make yours better. 😉
- Join professional organizations. There’s groups across campus like this. All you need to do is go to a couple meetings, and you can start to meet the alumni from the group and talk with companies that present! Myself, being a computer science major, lead the Computer Science/Software Engineering Club on campus, and we literally have companies emailing us every day asking to speak and/or hire our members. You can’t lose!
- Get internships and work experience. Iowa State, for example, has some career fairs every semester, and also a whole online career management system (cleverly named CyHire), just for students to get some work experience under their belts. You can get internships in other ways too! For my first internship, I went to the career fair. My second one, I talked with my adviser and some professors in our department a lot, and when a company called them for recommendations, my adviser and professors recommended me! And for my third summer one, I went to a professional conference to their career area and interviewed on the spot. There’s all kinds of different ways to get the work, if you put your mind to it! The people you meet at your jobs are essential for your future recommendations, introductions, and opportunities later down the road.
- Get a mentor. Mentors are an amazing resource that often go untapped. They are great people that have been in your shoes before, and can give you all kinds of great advice and introduce you to future connections! You don’t even have to go up to someone and say, “hey, be my mentor plz.” Just start asking them questions. Build a relationship. The word, “mentor” never has to escape your mouths if you let the relationship form naturally. My mentors that I have now are incredible. From scholarships to connections with companies to just general life advice, I feel like I can go to them for anything and they magically have the solution for me, and I love them for it!
- Participate. You’re in your major because you like it, right? I hope so. So, prove it! Go out there and participate and do something with it. When you do so, you can meet people from all over who have similar interests and could potentially help you out in the long run. From conferences to competitions to events to clubs to meetings, participate in them! You’d be surprised how many people you’ll get to know.
- Ask questions. I can’t emphasize this enough. It seems like a silly thing to advise you to do, but hear me out. Just ask. The worst thing someone can say is no. You want to know if an employer has an extra opening? Ask. You want to see if someone knows about scholarships for students in your major? Ask. You want an extension on a deadline? Just ask! One of my mom’s favorite phrases is, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” If you’re not asking for what you want, how will you ever get it?
I hope this helped you out in some way! Networking is an amazing skill that just takes a bit of practice. When used right, you can do great things with it.