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How to Network in College: A Step-by-Step Guide

By Varonika Ware

Varonika Ware is a content writer at Scholarships360. Varonika earned her undergraduate degree in Mass Communications at Louisiana State University. During her time at LSU, she worked with the Center of Academic Success to create the weekly Success Sunday newsletter. Varonika also interned at the Louisiana Department of Insurance in the Public Affairs office with some of her graphics appearing in local news articles.

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Edited by Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Posted: March 5th, 2024
How to Network in College: A Step-by-Step Guide

College can be a whirlwind, which makes it feel like it’s over before you know it so you might’ve started thinking about what comes next. Getting a job right out of college makes it feel like your hard work paid off, and networking can help you achieve that. Though, you may be wondering how to network in college?

Well, look no further because this guide can help you get started even if you’re still a freshman. Keep reading below to learn tips and tricks for building your connections!

What is networking?

Before we get started, we should cover exactly what networking is. Networking is a process of building connections with other professionals in order to exchange information or services. It’s usually done with people of similar specialties or career fields, but you can form connections across fields if you think you might want to change professions.

Why should I network?

During your time in college, you’re probably going to hear something about networking, especially as graduation gets closer and closer. It might even slip your mind, but there are numerous benefits to networking, and it can really help you as you enter the workforce.

Job opportunities 

One of the biggest reasons to start networking is job security. While forming connections, you’ll likely provide a copy of your resume to potential employers or workers at desired companies.

Even if they don’t initially offer you a position, they’ll keep you in mind for future positions that might not yet be posted on job boards. It also helps you to get a foot in the door if someone at the company already knows you. 

Industry contacts

Networking can help you build up a repertoire of professional contacts within your industry. You don’t have to be extremely close, but it’s ideal to occasionally reach out to the people you’ve met to maintain the relationship. 

In fact, the strength of weak ties theory suggests that weaker ties aka acquaintances or casual relationships can often be more helpful with job security than strong ties. So, sometimes it isn’t what you know, it’s about who you know!

Getting yourself out there

As you start to go to events or create connections, you’re going to be opening yourself up to new and different types of people. By doing this, you can build confidence in selling your skills and speaking up in presentations or in crowds. It becomes a lot less daunting the more you get yourself out there.

How do I network?

Networking isn’t something that has to be done in one specific way. There are tons of different methods for you to get in contact with future colleagues or employers. Take a look below to some of the ways you can network while you’re still in college. 

Get started early

While you can network anytime, it’s good for you to get started as soon as possible. You don’t want to wait until your last semester because you might feel rushed to make connections before you graduate.

Throughout college, you’ll likely come in contact with guest speakers and other professionals that can help you along the way. So, take advantage of opportunities as they come, and maybe create some of your own!

Create a LinkedIn profile

A big part of finding a job before and after graduation is creating a LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is a networking tool where people can upload their resumes and find open positions in their fields. It also operates as a social site since you create posts to highlight your achievements and positions, and you can also connect with your peers, colleagues, and many more.

Through LinkedIn, you can reach out to professionals in your desired field to gain insights or keep in touch with your classmates after you graduate. Be sure to make your account as soon as possible on LinkedIn and other job sites like it!

Related: Top LinkedIn Profile Tips

Practice your elevator pitch

First things first, what’s an elevator pitch? Well, an elevator pitch is essentially a short introduction that you would give a potential employer. It should take about the same amount of time as a chance encounter with a hiring manager in an elevator. 

You’ll want to communicate who you are, your most important strengths or talents, and what you hope to achieve through this pitch. Try to include a call to action at the end to involve the listener regardless of the outcome.

Try to gain experience 

A straightforward approach to networking is to start gaining experience. You can do this by getting an internship or applying for a teaching assistant position. Naturally, you’ll  be in touch with people in your field and working with them, so take advantage of the opportunity!

Related: How to get an internship guide

Go to events for your major 

If your college hosts events for your major, be sure to go to them if you have time! You’ll be able to talk with other students in your field of study, and you might even get to talk with working alumni in the area. You should also go to events for any clubs or organizations you’re a part of to diversify your contacts.

Visit your college career center

If your college has a career center on campus, don’t be afraid to use it! College career centers are packed full of useful tools for you that can help in and outside of school. 

Often, career centers offer practice interview opportunities and resume workshops that can help get you prepared and hone your skills. They can also point you in the right direction if you’re looking for an internship or job. 

Utilize your connections

Whether you know it or not, you already have a network around you. There’s no telling who you can meet by just reaching out to the people you already know. 

One great resource right at your fingertips are professors and/or mentors. It’s likely they have experience in the field you’re hoping to get into, or they can put you in touch with someone who does. It’s also a great opportunity for you to get to know your teachers in case you ever need a letter of recommendation in the future.

If you don’t feel particularly comfortable talking to your professors, try talking to your classmates, family members or friends. 

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • Networking is the process of building connections within your profession.
  • There are several benefits to networking such as job opportunities, industry contacts, and building your confidence
  • Be sure to get started early with your networking efforts to maximize your chances before graduation 
  • Creating a LinkedIn profile is important to build and maintain connections around the world
  • Don’t forget about practicing your elevator pitch because you might be using it sooner than you think!
  • Gaining experience is a key way to start networking since you’re already interacting with people in your field 
  • Take some time to get to know your peers and maybe some alumni at events for your major
  • College career centers have tons of resources that you can utilize, so be sure to make a visit there
  • Chances are that you’re already connected to people that can help you along the way, you just have to ask! 
Key Takeaways

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