Networking in College - How to Make it Work for You
Many of the most elite private colleges sell themselves to prospective students as an ideal place to network. After all, if you’re attending classes with the top professors in your field and meeting the top minds nationwide in your area of study, you’re sure to make some connections that will help you later. Right?
Not necessarily. You might make plenty of friends, but it’s easy to get through four years of college without making any connections that will help you get a job. Even at an elite private college, networking is something you need to work at—and it helps to have a plan. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of networking opportunities at your top school.
Join and lead extracurricular activities
Joining extracurricular activities gives you a chance to meet and mix with students who have interests similar to yours. Don’t just join extracurriculars that serve your outside interests, however. Choose your extracurricular activities with an eye toward areas that apply to your job interests. This ensures that the people you meet are more likely to work in your industry—and may possibly have valuable job leads when you need them after graduation.
Getting a job isn’t easy. And the old cliché
If there isn’t an extracurricular activity that suits your professional interests, consider starting one. Look for ways to start groups that will attract the high achievers in your school—the students who are dedicated to your field and likely to be professional as well as academic high achievers. As a leader and founder of a group, you’ll have opportunities to work with these students before graduation—and hopefully after.
Get good grades
Getting good grades puts you in the same class rank as other high-achieving students in your field. This gives you the opportunity to join scholarly groups and honor societies that give you more opportunities to meet and network with these students. In addition, your professors are more likely to notice you if you get good grades and demonstrate your commitment to the field—giving you more opportunities to network with them, as well.
Get to know the professors and staff, too
Professors often have contacts in their industries—and some may be able to help you get a job after graduation. Get to know your professors and the staff at your college. Professors are in an excellent position to recommend you, because they get to know you over a period of months or even years—and get to see how you work. And if you form a strong bond with a few professors, this may lead to professional opportunities later.
Get a job in college
A college job can do more than put money in your pocket. It can help you build a resume—and meet people who might work in your industry later on. In addition, your supervisor at your college job may be able to give you some leads on places to try applying to after graduation—and may know a few people who still work in those companies. If you develop a good relationship with your boss at your college job, you may be able to get a few promising job opportunities afterward.
Get to know your alumni
Alumni networks can do a lot for recent graduates looking for job opportunities. When you can, talk to your alumni office about making contacts with people who work in companies or industries you’d like to work for. If they’re in the area, offer to take these people to lunch and talk to them about their industries. If you can, get involved with your college’s alumni association and attend events for alumni. Once you graduate, you’ll find that attendance at the same college can give you an easy point of conversation with others you meet—and may help you get hired.
Getting a job isn’t easy. And the old cliché that it’s more who you know than what you know often proves to be true. If you’re attending a top private college, don’t let the opportunities for networking go to waste. Get involved in activities where the high achievers in your field congregate—and get to know them. Get good grades and try to develop strong relationships with your professors. And get a job—and do well enough to form a relationship with your boss and coworkers. If you do, you’re likely to make connections that will help you—not just in class, but afterward.
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