Networking is often recommended for professional growth and development. This implies that the practice of connecting with others professionally is only important once you’ve started your career. However, networking in college also has some distinct benefits. Here are a few, along with strategies for networking while still working toward your higher-level degree.
Importance of Networking in College
Why is networking important in college? One reason is that it helps you establish professional relationships before entering the workforce in your desired field. The individuals you connect with may provide advice that can help you get started or let you know when they see a job opening that you may be interested in.
Another benefit of networking in college is that it helps you practice your communication and relationship-building skills in a professional capacity. You learn what approaches work and which ones may be less effective. You also become more comfortable with the networking process, reducing your reluctance to connect with others after graduation.
Benefits such as these underscore the importance of networking in college. How can you get started?
Tips for Networking in College
There are a few things you can do as a college student to begin to grow your professional network. Here are a few tips for networking in college:
- Talk with your course instructors. College professors and other faculty members aren’t only there to provide instruction. They can also connect you with others who may be beneficial to your career, especially since many instructors have a great deal of experience in the field—which comes with their own expansive network. Take the time to introduce yourself to your instructors. Let them know your goals so they’ll think of you if they hear of an opportunity that might be a good fit for you careerwise.
- Reach out to the university’s career services department. Career services can help you with job search tools such as building your interviewing skills or creating a more effective resume. However, what many people don’t realize is that this department can also assist with networking in college. For example, Saint Leo University’s Career Services team can connect you with a variety of networking opportunities, also providing you access to various workshops, job fairs, and other career-related events.
- Join student clubs and organizations. College-level groups provide access to individuals in a wide variety of fields. This helps create a more rounded professional network while also exposing you to people with different backgrounds and experiences. Student clubs and organizations available at Saint Leo include honor societies, academic clubs, special interest clubs, and multicultural and diversity clubs.
- Do an internship, if you can. Some college programs require that you complete an internship to receive your degree. Internships are great for networking in college, in addition to providing other benefits, such as aiding in skill development and helping you see what it’s really like to work in a specific field or job role. Online internships are also helpful for these purposes.
- Work for the university. Some universities hire students for positions that can increase their exposure to other professionals. Employment opportunities at Saint Leo that would be helpful for networking in college include those that involve working at camps, conferences, and other events. Even taking a position as a lifeguard or working in dining services can increase your chances of meeting people who could make great additions to your professional network.
- Join professional social media networks. LinkedIn is a widely used social media platform for professionals who are interested in networking, as well as for students who are interested in networking in college. In fact, one LinkedIn article reports that students are among one of its fastest-growing populations. On your profile, include any work experience you have that could be complementary to your future job role. Also list your volunteer experiences, achievements and awards, and associations to which you belong. This helps give potential contacts a better idea of who you are and the topic areas or social missions that you find most important.
- Make connecting with others a habit. It’s well known that attending a career fair or joining professional groups can help you grow your network. But those aren’t your only options. Sometimes you’re in line at the grocery store and, during idle chit-chat with the person in front of you, you learn that they are in your field and would love to connect. Or you are working in a job that isn’t in your field, only to start a friendship with someone who has a family member in your desired field and would be glad to make an introduction. The more you make connecting with others a habit, the greater your likelihood of meeting individuals who can grow your professional network.
Now that you understand the importance of networking in college and have a few strategies to try, make it a point to work on at least one of these (preferably more!). When you do so, your professional relationships will begin to grow, and your career opportunities are bound to expand.