You’ve helped your child research colleges, gain admission to their dream schools, and even figured out a way to pay for it all.
However, their work has only just begun. After all, for many the point of attending college is to help lead a successful life, and that means securing a great job after graduation.
Those first jobs are not always based on what you know, but rather who you know. Making the most of a new college degree requires networking skills.
College students have an opportunity to network almost effortlessly.
In fact, networking in college can be an enjoyable experience for all parties.
Networking and College
There is no doubt that few institutions mean as much to college graduates as their alma mater.
While not everyone can donate a new chemistry building or rec center, most alumni are happy to help out someone who is where they once were.
As soon as your child commits to a college, they can start taking advantage of networking opportunities.
Once the deposits have been paid and your child is officially attending a school, they can start thinking strategically about reaching out to upperclassmen who can serve as mentors on campus.
When to Start Networking
Going into college with a goal of networking is fine, but it should not be your child’s main objective. Instead, encourage them to find an effective study routine and join organizations that reflect their passions.
Not only is this a healthy, holistic approach, but it also leads to more effective networking through friendship and shared interests.
One of the best ways to start networking is to chat with classmates and go to professors’ office hours, which is also key to an effective study routine.
Professors are excellent resources and typically have valuable contacts in the field to share with students. Maintaining relationships with professors long after graduation can be helpful in obtaining introductions and reference letters.
Encourage your child to explore their interests through other campus organizations. Networking opportunities are plenty through Greek life, professional societies, and community service groups.
Roles on sports teams, special interest clubs, and even student jobs offer a form of connection that can act as the basis for a conversation.
At its core, networking is simply maintaining contact with friends and acquaintances and fostering those relationships over time.
How to Find People
Your child shouldn’t limit themselves. Often, college alumni organizations and career services offices maintain lists of graduates who are happy to talk to current students.
As was mentioned before, going to all of their professors’ office hours is a great low-pressure way students can network.
Another way they can make inroads with with professionals who are already established in their careers is by attending or volunteering at special events for alumni who are visiting campus.
By being a bit proactive, students can get much further. Start with a reputable presence online.
Your child should scrub their social media profiles of anything embarrassing during the admissions cycle. It’s a good idea to keep personal accounts private and consider getting a professional Twitter and LinkedIn account to network.
Joining groups on LinkedIn lets members directly message one another without a subscription.
This will be your child’s single best route to networking with people who are graduates of their college or have similar career interests.
To make the most of LinkedIn, they can share interesting content every week or so to show people who view their profile that they are active on the platform.
The Best Way to Reach Out to Others
Social media is one of the best ways to network, but it’s not the only way. Meeting someone in person, whether it is at Homecoming or another campus event, is a great way to build rapport quickly.
If your child finds someone who would be a good contact, there is nothing wrong with emailing them directly.
Many companies list email addresses along with their employees’ biographies, and even for those who don’t, professional emails tend to follow a pretty predictable pattern.
Phone calls and text messages are largely discouraged for initial contacts as they can feel a bit too invasive. The same goes for using personal email addresses without an invitation to do so.
Things to Avoid
Knowing where to draw the line is essential to good networking, as is recognizing the fact that any alumni willing to help your child is doing them a favor.
Don’t be offended if someone doesn’t have the time or capacity to connect.
Here are a few other things to avoid:
- Don’t look straight to the C-suite – A CEO (even one who is an alum of your child’s college) may not be the best person to speak with. Instead, look for people who are doing the job function that your child wants to perform upon graduation. They’ll have more knowledge about hiring and internships.
- Limit efforts to one follow-up email – People are busy, and while things can fall through the cracks, being annoyingly persistent can quickly become a hindrance to networking. Email or message once, and then follow up a week or two later. After that, leave it alone.
- Always show gratitude – Saying thank you at the end of a call is one thing, but writing a note is better. It doesn’t just show that thankfulness, it also shows professionalism.
Just like learning time management and job-specific skills, networking can be learned and must be practiced.
Fortunately, college offers a great opportunity to build a great network with considerable ease.
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