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Building Relationships in College: How to Network Before You Graduate

Sep 7, 2012 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

One of the benefits of attending an elite private college is assumed to be its networking potential. At these schools, you’re supposed to be able to meet and befriend future industry leaders, professors, and alumni who can help shape your career after college—and lead to a bright future. While it’s true that who you know can be just as important as what you know—and you can indeed meet important people in college—that networking often doesn’t just happen by accident. Like anything else, you have to work at it.

Here are a few tips for effective networking while you’re still going to college online.

Get in touch with alumni before you graduate

Alumni often prefer to interact with current students rather than graduates—the pressure is lower, because at this point, you’re just asking for advice—not a job. Even so, forming a strong mentor relationship with an alumnus could indeed lead to a job after graduation. Before you graduate, contact college alumni who work in the area you want to work in—and offer
lunch for advice. You never know where it might lead.

See Also: Online Degree Programs

Students networking

In networking, it always helps to know what you want—so if you can articulate your career vision clearly, it will be a help to you.



Join activities relevant to your career goals

This will get you meeting and forming friendships with students who may go on to work in your field. And you never know when forming friendships in the right places can lead to an opportunity.

Get to know your friends’ parents

In addition to meeting students with the same career goals, make an effort to find out what your friends’ parents do. It’s possible some of them work in the area you’re interested in—and may be able to provide good advice and connections. Ask your friends if their parents would be okay with giving you a little low-pressure career advice before you graduate, and you could form a relationship that could lead to opportunities later.

Develop a professional social media presence

While all your friends are still tweeting about what they had for lunch or that great concert they saw last weekend, you’ll stand out by building a social media presence that emphasizes your professional goals and skills. You can also use social media to reach out to people in your area of interest for advice before you graduate.

Work your internship

It can be easier said than done to land a choice internship at a company you really want to work for—those internships can be really competitive. But no matter where you get an internship, it’s useful to remember this can lead to a first job opportunity. Be professional at all times, demonstrate a willingness to learn and an enthusiasm for the field, and seek out mentors—and you’re likely to build valuable contacts, even if you don’t land a full-time job there right away.

Make sure your professors know about your career goals

Your professors may have valuable connections as well—and they’re a resource you shouldn’t miss out on. Be sure to have one-on-one chats with some of the professors who’ve demonstrated an interest in you throughout your academic career. Explain your career goals and ask if they have any leads, suggestions, or advice. You never know what kind of help you may get.

In networking, it always helps to know what you want—so if you can articulate your career vision clearly, it will be a help to you. But you may not know exactly what you want until you’ve gained some work experience, and many students find themselves in that position. Even so, building contacts while you’re in college will give you a head start on your job search when you graduate—and put you ahead of your peers.



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