You may have heard the term “networking” for most of your life, but you may not realize what it is or how important it can be.
Networking refers to building connections that could improve your professional prospects. For example, meeting with business owners, project runners and community leaders can all open doors for your future career. These connections can be far more important than you realize.
According to some estimates, the average person secures between 65 to 90 percent of their jobs thanks to networking. This means that it is essential for you to develop these connections before you graduate.
Here are some best practices college students should learn to build up your networking skills.
Join a University Club
There are dozens of different types of university clubs you can sign up for, including sports teams, academic groups and Greek organizations. These types of college clubs are ripe ground for establishing your networks.
For one thing, a lot of university clubs are built on the premise that the friendships you make in them can help you in life after campus. Fraternities and sororities are prime examples of university organizations that actively help their members succeed through connections.
If you want to have an easier time establishing a network you can use to get a leg up on employment, joining a university club is a great first step. Make sure that you care active in these clubs and to maintain a healthy camaraderie with fellow members.
Make the First Move
If you want to have a vibrant network that can help your career long before you graduate, you cannot afford to be shy. You should make the first move when you spot an opportunity for networking.
For example, during events that put you in proximity to people who can help your career, don’t just stick to talking to friends you already have. Work the floor and approach people who you think can provide you with valuable leverage. Open conversations and make small talk. These opportunities are fleeting and being meek about it won’t get you anywhere. You need to be confident, tactful and clever if you want to establish a great first impression.
Be Present Online
The pandemic has shown people the immense importance of building an online presence. Not every opportunity is a physical event.
For example, sites like LinkedIn were explicitly created to allow people to network through the internet. You cannot only rely on physical meet-and-greets for establishing your networks. First, you need to curate your social media to make it presentable. Your social media profiles are your digital identity. They need to look as employable as you do.
You will also need to engage with potential networking leads online. This can be as simple as commenting on a post or actively engaging in discussions with them.
Be Mindful When to Network
It’s just as important for you to realize when you shouldn’t network. Networking needs to be done tactfully as it can be very intrusive. You must realize that not every party, meeting or event is a place for you to start building your network.
Sometimes people attend events without expecting to talk shop. They can be looking for a fun time or the event may not be appropriate for networking.
For example, you shouldn’t even attempt to network during a funeral. Stick to events and locations where people expect to form network such as cocktail parties, corporate events and similar occurrences. This will help you avoid being rude or creating a negative impression.
Involve Yourself in Campus
If you are not part of an organization or your online presence is negligible, you can still have lots of lucrative networking opportunities by being active around campus. Your university should have plenty of opportunities you can use to network.
For example, you could join student government, which can not only give you the chance to work on management and political skills but also put you in proximity of people who can help you in the future.
If you are more academically inclined, being active in campus activities and projects could ensure you have high visibility with professors and ensures they know you are capable and determined. Don’t ignore the opportunities your own campus can offer you in terms of establishing a future career.
Networking is often an overlooked skill but one that is immeasurably important if you want to be successful later in life. Before you graduate from your college or university, make sure that you learn at least the basics of forming useful networks