Before I took networking seriously, I thought it was a quick way to get myself recognized among thousands of other college-aged applicants. After meeting with different people every week, I quickly learned that networking is really about fostering relationships and broadening your perspective.
No two people have the same career path, and no two people have the same opinion. Through networking, I learned about different kinds of jobs in my field, their day-to-day work and the lessons and skills each of them found important over their long or short career path. It also got me my first internship. From my first internship, I got my second internship, which led to my third. And finally, it helped me land my first job out of college.
Convinced to give networking a try? Below are some tips on how to go about it:
- Start now. College is the perfect time. As a student, people tend to be more open and understanding with you as you figure things out. You are also free from the shackles of a 9-5 job to meet for coffee at whatever time best suits your networking partner.
- Make a list. Who do you know? Think about your parents, professors, alumni, friends and community. Write down names, organizations, events. Anything that’s related to your professional field or piques your interest.
- Give yourself a challenge. Begin small by reaching out to one person a week or go to one professional event each month. Start by talking to someone you already know (e.g., your professor).
- Don’t get discouraged. You may not get a response to your emails or you may end up having 30 minutes of awkward small talk with a stranger in a brand-new environment. Your attitude is everything because you never know who knows who.
- Stay organized. Keep a spreadsheet with the names, contact information and notes about each person you met.
For more detailed tips on networking such as how to write an inviting email, which questions to prepare and what challenges you might encounter, just search online for a variety of resources to help you get started.