Network in College

October 26, 2012

6 Ways to Network While You’re in College

Here’s why you should build your network before you need a job–and how to do it.

It’s never too early to start networking. And if you want a job when you complete your diploma, you’ve got to know people in the industry in which you want to work.

“The concept is to plant the seeds before you need to harvest them,” says Heather Krasna, director of career services at the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Affairs. “By the time you’re about to graduate, it’s getting to be a little late in the day to start building those connections.”

So how should college students go about making new connections and getting the most out of them when they have a full course load—and a social schedule to boot?

Here are 6 tips for networking while you’re still in college:

1. Play the student card: Alumni and other contacts are more likely to want to help you while you’re still a student, Krasna says. “It’s less pressure because the person is just asking for advice,” she says, and not yet looking for a job. That means if you want to pick the brain of someone who works in the industry you want to go into or even request an informational interview, now’s the time to do it. Grow those relationships while there’s no pressure, so those contacts will want to help you when you transition to the work world.

2. Use your friends’ parents as resources: They’ve got decades of experience and are probably willing to share their expertise with you—and maybe even their contacts, too. Students tend to overlook their parents’ friends when it comes to networking, but those parents are often well connected or know people who are. They’ll still be around after you graduate, but it can be less awkward to ask for their advice and guidance while you’re in school, says Jodi Glickman, communications expert and author of Great on the Job. “You want to build up this stable of resources before you need them, so that when you actually are looking for a job, you can go in and tap in,” she says.

3. Get out of the bubble: The isolation of some college campuses fosters learning, but when it comes to networking, students can get ahead by networking off campus, says Emily Bennington, who helps college graduates transition into careers through her company, Professional Studio 365. Check out conferences in your field or your local Chamber of Commerce. “Rather than using your savings for a spring break in Daytona … go to a conference that’s within your industry,” Bennington says. “Use social media strategically about six to eight weeks in advance of your landing at that conference to reach out to people who are going to be at that event.”

4. Use LinkedIn: Too many students make the mistake of thinking they can avoid LinkedIn until after college, but the smart move is to use it now to track the network you’re building. LinkedIn recently launched new options for students that make it easier than ever to get the hang of this network. If you still have trouble getting into the LinkedIn habit, try spending half the time you’d normally spend on Facebook on LinkedIn instead, Krasna suggests.

5. Use Twitter strategically: While LinkedIn is lauded as the professional social network, Twitter can be even more useful for connecting with people you want to know. Make a list of people in your industry who you look up to, and use the network strategically to connect with them. Like LinkedIn, Twitter can help you take all of these strategies to the next level because it provides an opportunity to keep in touch with the network you’re building.

6. Get an internship: This is the most obvious option, but it can’t be overstated. The value of an internship is tremendous, both in terms of skills and contacts. Employers often hire full-time workers from their internship pool, which means having an internship puts you ahead of other job seekers. In addition to giving you real-life experience to put on your resume, an internship puts you in eyesight of people who work in your field of choice, which means they’re more likely to think of you when job opportunities arise.


24 thoughts on “Network in College”

  1. Quite helpful and enlightening for students who are looking a job in their fields, during and after their studies. I may have to get in on LinkedIn since I don’t do facebook.

  2. I SO need to explore LinkedIn…this article was the nudge I needed to get in the habit of social networking. I have found some of my best networking connections to date at church and in interactions with other volunteers in civic organizations and on boards. I am way behind in the social media realm! Thanks.

  3. I only have 3 more weeks until my externship at Clary and I haven’t really done much networking besides giving massages at events and Clary Saturdays, but even that has helped get my name out there!

  4. Word of mouth to me is networking. Simply mentioning that I am going to school to be a massage therapist, always gets peoples attention. So for me learning how to sell myself an my craft to everyday people is a great way to attract business for myself

  5. This is excellent advice to any college student. Networking is extremely crucial for somebody trying to get a job with their education. I am definitely glad that this topic got brought up.

  6. These are great tips for those searching for the new job, even for those in search of an better job. It is also useful for the new business owner for networking skills.

  7. Really great advice for college students everywhere. I mean nowadays you need to be networking to get anywhere in the career that you want to be in. I really am going to put this advice to good use.

  8. This is encouraging because I already use my parents friend and now they are my friend and help me. I need to possibly get a twitter or linked in for networking online. I will have to look into that.

  9. I like to think that I already have a substantial network built, but there is always room for improvement. This gave me a lot of ideas to really get myself out there. Thanks!

  10. Networking can get you so much further than you could ever expect. I know graduates that would not even be half as successful as they are without networking with the people they know. It is a huge tool and a great strategy for everyone to use.

  11. I think I have most of what was listed down. I have a LinkedIn account. I have Clary lined up as my externship. I refuse to use Twitter because I hate it. I have a few contacts with whom I play the student card. I just need to work on getting out of my bubble to network more.

  12. I agree networking is very smart. I am glad I started networking when I began school. CLD taught me some great networking skills. I think it’ll pay off.

  13. I must say that this is very good advice for me. I’ve always loved networking, when I was in CLD, they taught a lot more about networking. I’m glad that I learned a lot more about it. Thanks for the advice.

  14. Thank you for the tips, and for reminding me to start my networking while in school. I also have started a linked in and twitter, but have done nothing with them. Now that is about to change

  15. Networking is so entertaining, getting yourself out of that bubble called the comfort zone I realized that you can improve your own social downfalls and also pick up some tips from others in the business world. Can’t wait to get started

  16. Great networking advice. It’s always helpful to learn new and creative ways to network as this is such a valuable tool in this business. Linkedin is definitely a resource I need to connect with.

  17. This is a pretty blog over networking. Facebook and Linkedin are very good ways to market yourself easily and its very inexpensive.

  18. I need to work on my networking. So far I only have facebook. But I’m getting to know a lot of people who need massages through facebook so maybe by word of mouth I can find someone who can help me network better!

  19. Networking is an amazing tool. And is the best way to get your name out there. Just the other day I had an idea for our Omega day class to go to my mother in law’s Wal-Mart store and do chair massage for their employee’s. We can hand out cards and make some clients while Wal-Mart rewards their employee’s for being great workers.

  20. I can see how networking is important but I don’t like the idea of using sites like LinkedIn or Twitter that I’m not familiar with. But it needs to be done if I want to become “someone” in my industry.