After four years of staying up late to finish assignments, spending countless hours studying for finals at the library, and finding a balance between academics and healthy social life, you should walk out of college with more than just a degree in hand. The time you spend in college may create some of your best memories, but it’s also a vital time for making connections and preparing for your future career.
Getting a job fresh out of college isn’t easy, especially since the current job market is saturated with new grads. Scoring an entry-level position takes more than just the perfect resume or 4.0 GPA. It’s about knowing the right people and taking advantage of the networks you’ve created while at school.
Networking is the process of establishing a connection with potential mentors that will help you jumpstart and boost your career. This person can be alumni, academic advisor, college professor or even a senior student in your major. It’s never too early or too late to build your network. Here are some ideas for how to build your professional connections:
- Utilize your school’s Career Office.
- Join the Alumni Association and build connections with alumni in your field.
- Be active on LinkedIn and connect with professors and people that you already know.
- Join organizations parallel to your industry of choice.
- Attend networking events such as career fairs and campus visits by local companies.
- Volunteer during your free time and also look for internship opportunities.
- Get in touch with professionals that you admire.
In 2016, Lou Adler, CEO of The Adler Group, a company that specializes in the training of recruiters and hiring managers, conducted a survey which found that 85% of jobs were filled through networking. Here’s how networking in college can help jumpstart your career.
Networking Will Expose You to the Professional World
Adjusting to life post-graduation can be tough without proper preparation of what to expect in the real world. Having built your network early into your college career will help alleviate the feeling of being lost and teach you about the industry you’re breaking into via the firsthand views of friends and leaders who are already firmly established.
For example, if you’re connected with an alumnus or a professor within your job industry, it’s easier to seek guidance in terms of how to prepare yourself for job interviews and what to expect from your first job. These people may also help you find internships that will provide more experience on your resume.
Get involved by joining the Alumni Committee at your college! Get to know respected and successful alumni within your profession. Since some coveted job listings are only shared through word of mouth, networking may be your best chance to move towards your dream job.
Networking Can Help You Build Up Your Professional Skills
College will provide you with ample opportunities to improve your social skills with different groups of people, but the social setting in a professional world might be different. Learning to communicate effectively while maintaining your professionalism is key to expanding your network in the real world.
For most college students, networking with someone who is not within their social circle might seem like a daunting first step. Getting comfortable with stepping outside of your comfort zone now, though, will reward you in the future.
When interacting with a professional, observe how they converse with each other and practice using the “lingo” of your profession on a daily basis — this way, transitioning from a casual to a more professional conversation will be easier for you in the future.
Going to networking events can also benefit you. Becoming confident in the working world takes practice. Conversing with recruiters and potential employers in a professional setting will prepare you for both interviews and the workplace.
Employers are always looking for someone who’s not afraid to stand out of the crowd. So, whatever you do or wherever you are (especially at networking events), be confident, introduce yourself and make yourself memorable — in a good way. The more people you network with, the higher your chances of being offered an exciting opportunity. And sometimes the reward is a connection that lasts a lifetime.
Networking Can Lead to First-Hand Mentorship
Whether you ‘re still an undergraduate student looking for a job after graduation or a recent grad, it’s always good to have a mentor — someone who can guide you and teach you the ways of how your industry works.
This person should be someone whose work you admire and whom you feel comfortable with — they can be your professor, academic advisors or even a college senior. What’s important is how much they know about the field you’re going into.
One of the best ways of finding a mentor is by reaching out to professionals who inspire you. A quick email letting them know that you want to learn more about the industry is a low-pressure way to connect! You can also talk to a professor (even after you’ve graduated), a senior student, or a college advisor. If your college has an alumni network, they might be able to put you in touch with a graduate in your field. (Alumni love receiving emails from students at their alma mater.)
Once you’ve connected, ask questions! Think of this person as a tour guide as you navigate your way through the beginning of your career. Remember, there’s no such thing as a silly question, especially if it’s about your future.
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