The primary goal of college may be to receive your degree, but it can be just as crucial to be connected to the right individuals. "Who ya know," can be more influential than that grade you received on that last exam. So, sorry introverts (including myself), but much of the professional world may indeed resemble a popularity contest. But, don't panic.
In this article, we will break down the importance of networking in college and share how you can develop lasting connections that may come in handy once you receive that diploma.
“What things would you change about your college experience?”
This was a question posed to recent college graduates in a Forbes Magazine survey. The number one answer? Networking. Wondering why that is? Here are 5 reasons why networking in college can make or break future career opportunities and why you should start networking as soon as possible.
1. Make yourself stand out amongst the crowd of grads
A college degree is more accessible than ever. Approximately 33 percent of Americans 25 or older have a bachelor's degree or higher according to a recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau. This is good news, right? Well, how does this affect the job market? A number of recent surveys and studies reveal that between 25 to 45 percent of college graduates are overqualified for their current job and many of whom are not even working in their field. In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections for the year 2022 indicate this number will only go up.
"The point is..A lot, like A LOT of people have a bachelor's degree."
Because of this, it is essential for college students to use every resource available to them either inside or outside of the classroom to help them stand out and land a job in their field.
2. College is the perfect place to receive training from like-minded individuals
College exists to provide specific training in your chosen field. You are surrounded by experts in your field and have the opportunity to glean from their knowledge and experience.
Professors are some of the most untapped resources for college students. Think about it..that old guy who gets up in the morning and talks in front of you for an hour while wearing a Hawaiian shirt or sweater vest? He is there because he wants you to succeed and is passionate about providing you with the training to help you succeed. Not only that, but professors usually have years of experience and connections in the industry.
Along with professors, you have a number of resources available to you without ever having to leave campus. Most universities have some type of career services office specifically purposed to provide you with employment opportunities. For instance, SAGU has a Career Development office that helps connect students with employers for jobs and internships. Universities usually host a number of events and conferences that can give you a way to connect with recent graduates and influencers in your field.
Internships are also a great way to connect with potential employers and network within the industry. To learn more about how to make the most of your internships including networking, be on the lookout for a future article about this topic!
3. Gain practical experience through student organizations
Getting involved with student-led organizations is an excellent way to network with other students both within your major and in different studies. If you are all in the same organization, chances are that you have something in common. Take the time to create meaningful friendships as their connections may be valuable in the long run.
4. Connect with upcoming professionals
Your classmates are also a valuable resource as you are all going through the same training. Talk to your classmates and friends for their insight. For all you underclassmen, I would highly recommend befriending and seeking the advice of upperclassmen. Not only can they give you the scoop over which teachers to pick for courses, but they can help you land a job when it's time for you to graduate.
Think about it – when you are still taking courses, your friend who has already graduated is making moves in your work field. If you have established and maintained that relationship, you now have an "in" as that former upperclassman can recommend you for a position in their workplace.
Along with potential job opportunities, networking and connecting with other students allows you to process and communicate information learned in the classroom in a practical manner simulating real-world, workplace communication. Personally, I learned numerous tips and tricks from students and networking with other students helped to solidify my own understanding of certain concepts.
The other day my boss shared something with our team. He mentioned that lately, he has been approaching every meeting with the understanding that "every man or woman is better than him in some way."
Take the time to listen to your colleagues or classmates because chances are they have insight or knowledge that could benefit you. After all, knowledge is power!
5. Get a head start on LinkedIn
According to SocialMediaToday, 77% of all available job positions are posted on LinkedIn!
Yet, many students do not even create a LinkedIn account until graduation is on the near horizon. By that time, you are scrambling to put together your account and adding professors you have not taken since freshman year and former students you have neglected. The earlier you can start, the better! Create a LinkedIn account before you need it. It takes time to develop and nurture an extensive network. Start building connections with professionals as you soon as you can so by the time you do need it, you're set.
So – do it!
Would you ever show up to a stranger's party by yourself? You could but you would probably receive strange looks and a number of comments such as "who in the world is that guy?" So, don't be that guy. Be someone who has taken the time to develop and maintain relationships. Be someone who has taken the time to show interest in people and is excited about interacting with the world around you.
So, why would you pass up the opportunity to network with driven, like-minded individuals? Why pass up the opportunity to develop relationships with individuals who can potentially refer you for that dream job?
To learn more about the different college networking resources and tools you can start using now, be on the lookout for part 2 of this series dropping soon.
About the Author
Andrew received a bachelor’s degree in Journalism (2015) and a master’s degree in Strategic Communication (2022). Seeing the world by way of story, he was drawn to writing and music at a young age. He is also a major foodie which may explain why his shirts “keep getting smaller.” Andrew serves as the managing editor for PrepU.