Working toward earning a degree is a full time job. Between juggling a class schedule, finishing homework and projects on time, and making sure your home responsibilities are taken care of, fitting anything extra in can be difficult. The idea of networking can be intimidating for many college students. There is already a pressure to do well and get good grades and networking is just one more hassle to worry about, but this is definitely the wrong way to think about making and keeping connections.
Throughout your career, you’ll make connections. There’s no doubt that with every job you work, you’ll meet interesting people who you want to stay in contact with over the years. In any position you’ll work, your LinkedIn account will likely swell with connections because they’ll want to reciprocate the connection they made with you. But, if you’re a college student, making these connections on LinkedIn and on campus can be difficult if you’re not in the mindset of creating a network of connections. Networking while in school can be a great resource to have in your back pocket when it comes to applying for jobs, writing cover letters, or even just having someone to bounce ideas off of for what your next steps should be in your career.
It can seem fake
For students and those just entering the workforce, networking can seem like a dirty word. It sounds like you’re trying to get something from the other person and can leave a bad taste in your mouth. For those of you who are in this line of thinking, get over this as soon as possible. Networking is not about receiving something, it’s about building professional relationships with those who have career goals of their own in mind. If down the line, one of your connections would make a great addition to the company you’re working for, make a referral. If they know how hard you work on projects and your attention to detail, ask to use them as a reference. Networking is a mutually beneficial, professional relationship.
Socializing? No thanks.
Many students, and even seasoned professionals, believe that networking is reserved for those who have a flair for conversation, are social butterflies, and are naturally extroverted. This is certainly not the case, and in truth, introverts can even be better at networking than the person who’s the life of the party. While extroverted individuals may have an easier time striking up conversations, this is certainly a skill that even the shiest person is able to acquire. When making connections, it’s more about listening than talking about your achievements. Be curious about other people’s accomplishments and less about your own.
To make strong, lasting connections and network successfully, be genuine and honestly interested in the other person and what they have to say. Networking may not be the easiest task for some students, but it is an important one for all students.