If you’re in college you know the importance of networking, every freshman orientation class and well meaning adult has stressed it to the point where you can recite the speech in your sleep. With that said, I’m not going to bore you with why it’s so important. I know, you know, we all know. What a lot of people have trouble with, though, is how to network.
I’m an introvert. As far as introvert come, I am fairly outgoing which helps with making connections. Still, the idea of networking events still don’t appeal to me. Luckily there are ways to network outside of forced gatherings where everyone is wearing ‘business casual’ attire and trying too hard to impress one another.
Meet Your Professors.
This is another speech that seemed to be played on repeat during freshman orientation. But how many people actually do it? According to the professors I’ve had in the past – not many. Their office hours are there for a reason – take advantage of them. Your professors are going to be some of your most important connections when it comes to networking, because they are already respected members of the field you want to be in. When I say meet them, I don’t mean go in once or twice. Make yourself stand out, ask them about their research, how they got to where they were, and what advice they have for you. The majority of professors want to see you succeed, and if they know you are passionate about your field, they may just put you in touch with some connections from their network. Last year I visited a professor and he gave me candy, if you’re looking for any extra motivation.
We’ve all heard of LinkedIn, a great website for networking, but definitely not the best way to network online. For me, blogging has been the best networking tool imaginable. I have fantastic connections from all over the
country world and I will tell you right now the connection bloggers have with each other in unbelievable. I am part of a dozen blogger networks on facebook, and bloggers are so quick to help each other whether someone is looking for a contact, advice for career direction, or just reassurance. In addition by blogging I’ve started building professional relationships with quite a few really great businesses! If you don’t already have a blog, you can make one following this guide! Email me if you do and I will be more than happy to help you out!
Don’t disregard anyone.
Just because someone is in an entirely different field than you, doesn’t mean they won’t be a valuable connection. Everyone has their own networks, and if you blow someone off you will never find out that their friend/relative/etc. happens to be a hiring manager in a field you want to go into. A problem a lot of people have is network tunnel vision where they only want to connect with important people in their field. Yes you want the majority of connections to be in your field, it’s important to diversify.
Don’t network just for the sake of furthering yourself. Network to make real connections and hopefully help others along the way, too. Don’t be a phony, if you are using your connections word will get around and that’s not a reputation that you want to have. Something to keep in mind is that you don’t have to be ‘friends’ with all of your connections, but you should at least be friendly with them.
This is something I am so bad at, but whenever someone I met briefly remembers my name I feel very special. My roommate last year had a friend who was not only incredible at remembering names, but she remembered so many details about what was happening in my life, and I’ve been trying to be more like her ever since! If people think you have a real interest in them they are going to like you more and be excited to help you!
Be the first to offer help.
If you have a contact or tip that might help somebody, be the first to offer it up. Not only is that the nice thing to do, but they’ll remember how you helped them and might tell other people! Those other people are going to want to know their helpful friend (you) and you might meet some valuable new connections!
Networking is hard.
Realize that but do it anyhow. You don’t need me telling you how important it is, but what I will tell you is that it can be fun. Even if you’re an introvert step out of your comfort zone and just go for it. If you’re looking for somewhere to start, shoot me an email and I would be more than happy to be the first connection you make in your network.