Networking While You’re Still in College

Network while in college
Networking means establishing lasting, valuable professional connections that can support the growth of your career. The sooner you master this skill and carry it with you into the working world, the better. If you’re about to graduate from college, look over these five tips for career-building newbies. Use them to expand your web of contacts, mentors, and references.

Networking versus making friends

These two activities are not quite the same, but they’re built on similar foundations. Making friends means boldly reaching out to others, giving and earning respect, as well as being kind with words and generous with favors. Networking also requires these things; however, when you network your efforts will be targeted toward those who are more professionally established than you are (like professors, teachers, bosses, neighbors, your friends parents, and your parent’s friends). So the rules are a bit different, and your approach will be more polished.

Asking for help can be awkward

The prospect of cold calling your mother’s coworker and asking her for career advice may make you want to hide under a table. This gesture, however, isn’t as awkward as you might imagine. A long as your approach is polite and respectful, your recipient will probably be flattered and excited to help you. This also applies to professors who might write you a recommendation and bosses who might offer you a reference. Just pick up the phone. Embrace the awkwardness.

Email works, too

When it comes to reaching out to potential network contacts, the order of value tends to match the order of difficulty: First, face-to-face contact; second, a phone call; third, a carefully written email; last, a text message. Whenever possible, arrange a meeting and speak with your network contact in person. But written messages will also work as long as your words are articulate and respectful. (No typos, text-speak, rude demands, or a tone of entitlement.)

Keep in touch and follow up

As you work to establish contact with those who are older, busier, and more professionally established than you are, don’t hesitate to bug them after an agreement has been made. Your requests and messages can—and probably will—slip through the cracks at least once or twice. Keeping in touch and maintaining a connection will be your responsibility, not theirs. After asking for a meeting, it’s your job to confirm and double confirm, and like it or not, it’s your job to reschedule if your contact cancels or can’t show up. Persistence and patience will pay off. Apply gentle pressure and don’t take brush-offs personally. Remember that asking for their assistance is a compliment to them, and they’re are probably really excited to help you.

5 key contacts for college seniors

If you plan to graduate this spring, take action right now to get these five people in your corner: Your favorite current professor, at least one previous professor or teacher, your manager or supervisor (if you have a job), your mentor at work, and your advisor or committee chair. Reach out to each person and make it clear that you’d like to count on him or her as a reference (and/or connection). This task will become more difficult after you graduate and move on to the next chapter of your life. For more networking, career growth, and job search tips, explore the tools and resources available at MyPerfectResume.