Here’s how to network your way into the career of your dreams, even though you’re still in school.
Have you ever heard someone confabulate about the “college experience”? It’s true, mostly, but once you get into the groove on campus, it probably occurred to you you’re going to have to do more than just show up for classes and pizza parties to compete in today’s job market once you graduate. The rest happens on your own accord, and somewhere on that list is making connections that will provide a solid start to your career.
You can’t wait until graduation day to get started. There’s a lot you can do while still in school to build your network now.
Tap into the resources at your disposal now.
Meet with the counselors at your school’s career center. Those same services would cost you a pretty penny if you were receiving them from a private career coach. Use this chance to gather the right tools, meet people in your field, ask how you can build your resume and work through challenges that might be holding you back.
It’s who you know
The importance of building your network really can’t be overstated. We’re not talking about sharing photos of your new puppy or your mani/pedi on your favorite social sites.
We’re talking about networking with purpose.
Get to know your professors—They can do so much for you.
- Ask them to introduce you to alumni. Alumni stick together, and will be willing to help you in meeting people at companies you want to intern at or apply for a job. They are likely to share their experiences and connections.
- Talk to your parent’s friends. You probably know what they do, and will be open to sharing their experience, expertise and contacts.
Get off campus
Focus on getting to know influencers in your community and in your niche. Attend meetings of the local Chamber of Commerce. Look up the members before you go and make it a point to meet them. Be prepared with questions you’d like to ask.
Attend conferences. Invest in your career.
Break time or summer recess is a great time to learn with purpose.
Not only will you gain new skills, it is another opportunity to meet new people whom you may turn to later. You won’t believe how much this will help when you’re heading towards your future dream job.
Mine for contacts on LinkedIn and Twitter
These sites are great for making connections. Look up industry influencers, follow them and comment on posts they write. Stay in touch. Post about professional wins, awards you received, an internship you are doing. Write a few articles yourself that are work-related and share them. Get off Facebook and develop your network here.
Attend career fairs at your school.
Sounds boring, but even if you’re not interested in any of the companies in attendance, powerful networking opportunities are everywhere at these kinds of events. Whether you’re rubbing elbows with recruiters or your peers, you can make it count. If there’s a speaker, attend and connect with them on LinkedIn for future networking.
Get an internship
With resumes pouring in, recruiters will likely move students with intern experience to the top of the pile.
Spend your summers working and learning with purpose.
So, once you’ve got yourself all set up with the right connections, start making space in your life for the opportunities! Try new activities on and off campus, travel, and accept invitations when they are offered. You never know when the opportunity of a lifetime is going to present itself, or what that will look like.
In the end, the “college experience” is what you make it. Don’t limit your learning to the classroom! Your entire career is ahead of you, and it all starts with your network.