One of the most important yet overlooked aspects of landing a job after college is knowing how to build a strong network in college.
These days, students waiting to graduate aren’t only competing with their fellow classmates; They’ve got to outperform graduates from years past who’ve been underemployed or may be switching jobs as well. That’s a lot of intelligent and ambitious people to beat! So how do you gain an advantage?
You develop a network of people you trust and admire.
The benefits of a strong network can include:
- Making long-lasting friendships and professional contacts
- Surrounding yourself with people who inspire you to do more
- Increased opportunities for referrals and job opportunities
- Gaining valuable insight about careers and industries
It’s easier said than done, but the juice is worth the squeeze. I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t make enough of an effort to network before I graduated. Maybe that’s why I still didn’t have a job when I left campus for good.
Yeah… no fun. But this isn’t about me! Let’s focus on getting you the job you want before you graduate.
7 Tips for Building a Strong Network in College
1. Keep an open mind
In anything you do, you want to have a goal in mind – this applies to networking, too. Just never allow yourself to fall into the trap of thinking you know everything.
Going to college is exciting – you’ve accomplished so much to get to this point and you have a lot to look forward to. But no matter what ideas you have about your future right now, you need to keep an open mind to other possibilities.
You never know what conversation, activity or opportunity will lead you to greater things!
2. Focus on providing value
To have a truly effective network, people need to enjoy being around you. The way to make that happen is to focus on providing value and not allowing your relationships to become a one-way street.
In the best relationships, people try to provide as much value to the other person as they’re receiving themselves. That can be difficult to do as a student or young professional, especially if you’re interacting with seasoned professionals. However, it’ll go a long way to make a point of asking your contact how things are going with them professionally.
Don’t forget that you have a personal network that you should offer to tap into when your contact is seeking help!
3. Socialize with other students
College isn’t just a stepping stone for your professional career – it’s a place to learn about people and build friendships that can last a lifetime. As a student, your networking efforts should start with your classmates! Socializing with students will help you:
- Build friendships with people you can relate to
- Learn about different student activities and organizations
- Get introduced to people in other students’ networks
- Get tips or feedback on educational or professional matters
Don’t let college just pass you by – get out there and meet new people! I used to be proud of the fact that I rarely ever went to the library to study. It wasn’t until later that I realized the library was one of the best places to socialize on campus.
So get out of your dorm room and study somewhere new. Or better yet, join a student-run organization. However you choose to spend your time outside of class, just be sure to balance your education with a social life that can benefit you for years to come.
4. Craft your elevator pitch
If you’re going to get something out of your networking efforts, you need a great elevator pitch.
Without an elevator pitch, it’s likely that you’ll:
- Introduce yourself to people awkwardly
- Have no structure to your conversations
- Fail to make an impression on people you meet
- Lose confidence in your ability to effectively network
However, with a mind-blowing elevator pitch, you’ll:
- Introduce yourself to people like a professional
- Have purposeful conversations
- Make a great impression on people you meet
- Gain confidence in your ability to effectively network
An elevator pitch is your best asset when you’re networking. Click here to see an elevator pitch example and learn how to make your own.
5. Attend networking and career events
If you think college is all about lectures and good grades, you’re missing the boat. Take advantage of your school’s networking/career events as soon as you step foot on campus.
These events can be uncomfortable and you may not even know what you want to do in your career yet. Fortunately, I’ve put together a guide for succeeding at these events.
Don’t wait until you’re a junior to take career fairs seriously. Landing internships along the way will make it much easier to start your career exactly how you want to.
6. Reach out to alumni
Alumni can be an incredible resource for college students. Job-seekers just need to know how to effectively connect with alumni.
I landed my first job after college through my alumni network. My secret weapon? Cold emails and informational interviews. My only regret is that I didn’t start doing those things my freshman year.
With this guide, you can easily put together your own cold emails and conduct your own informational interviews. Get started today and watch your career start to take shape.
7. Stay in touch with people
Making initial contact is wonderful, but what kind of relationship is based off one interaction? To build a strong network in college, it’s important to stay in touch with the people you’ve connected with.
This article is full of guides and advice to help you find success in networking early on. However, there’s no guide that can help you navigate the nuances of each relationship. Each one will have a life of its own, and it’s up to you to maximize those opportunities in your own natural way.
Each day is a new opportunity
When I was in your shoes, I had no idea how to build a strong network in college. Every day that passed me by while I kept to myself was an opportunity wasted. Time is our most valuable asset and relationships take time.
Use your time wisely and start building a network that’ll benefit you for life.
All opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of Home at 30 and are in no way affiliated with any other organization or institution. The purpose of this blog is to give general education and information about investing, wealth, careers, and college; It is not intended to be professional advice.
Author: Josh Ramos
Josh has paid off $130k in student loan debt in 4 years. By founding Home at 30, he wants to help end the student debt crisis by helping students and young professionals make decisions that will reward them for a lifetime.