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Student networking is the most important thing you should do before completing university because University/college is most likely the last place you will experience the comfort of having things done for you.
You might not consider it being directly spoon-fed, but colleges/universities/learning institutions have systems and staff placed to help you learn, build qualifications and help navigate different areas of the real world while still being under the protection and guidance of someone with a lot of experience. It is easier to find jobs, meet people, get top internships, etc. while using your school’s network.
The moment you graduate, all that kind of stops because you’ll be considered a full adult, and adults take responsibility for finding their opportunities and creating the career they want.
I’m not trying to scare you, it’s just the truth. And since you’ll be losing a network, the one thing to do is to build your own.
We’ve all heard of networking and how important it is in every field, most especially that you should start networking sooner rather than later.
This post will able to help you to start networking even as a student before you even have anything to offer to the outside world. I will discuss networking, how it benefits you, 7 student networking tips you should use to create your network, and a few other tips to make it easier.
“Networking is the exchange of information and ideas among people with a common profession or special interest, usually in an informal social setting.”
The purpose of networking is just to expand your circle of ‘people in a particular field’ from which meaningful communication will increase your awareness about new information and events happening in your field leading to you finding out about and landing new opportunities i.e. a job.
Student networking helps you develop relationships with people or companies you want to work with in the future. These connections help will help you establish trust and familiarity among people in your field.
It helps most when you create relationships with decision-makers in your industry who will remember you if there comes an opportunity or a job position that needs to be filled.
And trust me when I say that networking when put to good use may place you above people that may have higher grades or a better resume than yours (Obviously you have to know what you’re doing. It won’t help you if you know someone and have nothing to offer).
Even if it doesn’t land you a job immediately, there are amazing ways networking will positively influence your career.
Benefits of student networking to your career development
Learning more about your field and exchanging ideas
Universities don’t teach you everything. They teach you just enough for you to learn more on your own.
The world is changing very fast and you most likely will not find answers to some questions as it applies to the world today in your textbooks. You can find answers though by asking someone who has worked there practically.
Networking creates an avenue for you to ask questions, learn more and share your ideas. By sharing ideas you can get validation and tips from someone who knows more about that field than you do and just by listening to them it may lead you to a side you’ve never even considered working on.
It makes you noticeable among your colleagues
Unless you were making breakthrough projects or something, no one knows you immediately after you graduate from university. If you network, however, you will get recognition and your name will get mentioned in rooms and conversations making it easier for people to find you.
Opens doors for newer opportunities
If you network and communicate your value well, your solution will reach someone that has a problem. It’s a great opportunity for you to work with or for someone you admire which will act as a huge stepping stone for your career or even find clients you could help if you run a service-based business.
Helps you improve your resume
The more you gain experience, the more your resume will fill up. So will your specialization which will render a lot of your experiences useless for a particular career opportunity you are looking for.
With networking, you can ask your role model about the experience they had that contributed to their careers which will help you adjust your qualification to suit the job you are looking for.
Increase your Self-confidence
Meeting new people, introducing yourself, pitching yourself, and getting rejections will build your self-confidence. Whenever you interact with someone by benefiting them or learning something new, it boosts your self-esteem because all the exchanged information adds to your worth in that career field.
Not only does it help with your internal confidence overall but with your confidence in meeting the people, the confidence needed for positions of power, etc.
If you want to increase your confidence to start networking, read this.
All these career developments are a result of networking, you see how important it is? The next step is finding people to network with.
How to build networks as a student in university
While you can use social media platforms like LinkedIn to network, your success there is based on qualifications because people look for particular skills and experiences which you might not have as a student.
The networks I will mention below don’t need you to have much experience.
Your teachers/lecturers at a point in their career have met and worked with amazing people in the field, they definitely still do.
Your teachers themselves are a network because one, they are an expert in the field and can guide in whatever you want help with and two have a big network themselves. Your teacher will most likely give you a contact of someone that will help you gain entry into an opportunity or answer any questions you may have.
If your university takes clubs seriously then they are at a point going to bring an expert to teach you or lecture you on something. If you are a leader in that club you will be in close contact with that person and it will be very easy to ask them a question that puts you on the right path and even collect their contact to set up a lunch date or something.
Attend conferences and seminars
I’m not a fan of conferences because I just can’t justify spending a couple of hours listening to some people talk about a topic that may or may not have a direct impact on my life. I’m studying engineering so I have to prioritize my life you see. When I did attend one, however, I got a few important notes and names of people in my field for when I am ready to go into that area.
The people that stay till the end and attend the lunches or dinners, however, don’t only get their names, but also get to ask them questions directly. This is so much easier since you can talk about the conference itself and they can get to know your name and perhaps give you their phone numbers. If you don’t have much time, try to attend one at least every semester.
Be nice to your classmates
Your classmate might be a loser when you look at them under the scope of the trend of the century and what is cool, but you don’t know who they will be after UNI. That nerd no one wants to talk to is probably going to be the one with the successful company.
Not necessarily. My point is to be nice to everyone because you don’t know whose help you might need one day. They may be the ones to give you a job or give your kids a job.
Network with students of other departments as well:
What you study might not be what your career ends up as, trying to know a few people from other departments. You can meet them through clubs, sharing a dorm, or social media. You don’t have to be close, just acknowledge each other’s existence once in a while.
Keep in touch:
Do not delete that weird class/school group you are in. you might not need to share information anymore, but you might look for someone’s number one day.
Be a source of help
Help people. You could be of help to your classmates, your lecturers, friends, and even strangers. You could help in school events organizing, or just be the one to go an extra mile for someone in need. Someone might reach out to you as a potential network, which you will get fulfillment from. Or it could also become a network for you. People will also most likely help you if they know you will help them if they ask you.
How to actually network
Turns out it’s not that hard. Networking put in one sentence is finding common ground with someone and talking about it. Whether it’s a career, a passion, whatever side of your lifestyle you want an advancement on.
Talk about ideas, share ideas, ask questions.
If you want to find common ground with someone, here is a post on how to find your passion that I used to find mine.
Whether it’s on social media or in person or email, the best way to get someone to respond is to refer to something they had talked about or If you see someone ask a question, give them an answer.
After that, follow up with thanks or even more questions, but don’t just take, tell them of something you learned about that as well and they will appreciate it.
If you want to meet up, only ask that if you’ve had a meaningful conversation at one point or another then give a topic or a question you want to discuss with them so they might consider making time for you.
Something I’ve found out is being generic is most probably going to get you a No, so ask something specific.
On a final note:
Networking will only help you if you offer value. If you network with the sole purpose of using someone to get a job then it will most probably not work for you but if you think of it as a learning opportunity and a value exchange process then people will come to find you as a potential network as well.
Being a student also makes it seem less like you are wanting something from someone but like a curious student who needs help and everyone likes to be reminded that they are important.
To help you get started you should get some resources to help you like this post on 11 books on confidence that features not only confidence books but books on communication and building rapport with a stranger for formal conversations as well.
Something to keep in mind is that while asking someone to connect you with someone or an opportunity, you will get some Noes. You mustn’t take it personally because that person is doing it to protect themselves. That person is putting their reputation on the line for you because if you disappoint then that person’s recommendation of you seems like a lie and that will negatively affect their careers.
So whatever you want to do, remember to provide value. Over-deliver, that’s how you build a successful network as a student.
About the writer
Hey I’m Ilham and I write to convey helpful tips that will help you overcome any limitations holding you back from achieving your goals and becoming the girl of your dreams. On my blog, you will find tips on self-improvement, mental health, increasing confidence, motivation and productivity. Visit my blog ilhamusman.com to get started.