Networking is more than having 500 friends on Facebook, a firm handshake or a fancy business card.
Professional networking is your chance to leap into the work force and strut your stuff. But how do you do it?
We are told over and over again to show our personality and to be outgoing. Well, that doesn’t cut it anymore. Everyone has a personality and everyone can learn to be outgoing. Blah, blah, blah!
Personally, I think the most important part of networking as a college student is making yourself valuable. You may or may not know what career path you will end up with, but find something you are good at and try to express it to others.
Get involved with what you love to do. Maybe even try something new. You could do so by writing articles for your local paper (such as this one), doing community service, joining a registered student organization, or simply getting involved with something productive. If you can, do some of these ideas for free.
Professionals will see your commitment and view you as an asset. Networking opportunities will come to you through the people you meet. Show them what you have to offer. Don’t just take someone’s business card hoping they will find you a job or that you will get lucky. Create a partnership in which both parties will be mutually benefited by sharing each other’s knowledge.
Take time to make networking a priority. Yes, your mother is right, practice makes perfect. I think networking is a bit intimidating at first, but try not to be scared. Just get out there, generate new connections, and practice. It is not going to happen overnight, but if you invest your time wisely and improve your networking skills, it will pay off in the future.
You already have the talent and the personality. Why not start meeting people outside of your comfort zone? Keep in contact with those who will benefit your career. Take an interest in their lives and maybe they will have an interest in yours. There’s more to life than having just one close group of friends. Try to make several.
For the frosting on the cake, the little details will make you memorable. Simply write a thank you note after an interview, a follow up e-mail or phone call, or just remember someone’s name. These are subtle ways to be personable while showing your commitment to improving your professional relationships.
Didn’t we come to college to earn a degree and get a well paying job? In order to accomplish this, networking is crucial. Let’s make more connections than just accepting a simple Facebook friend request. n