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Networking in college: your key to success

Your neighbor could be a player for your future success...

Sarah Xu

December 05, 2023



When you think of networking, you may be thinking of putting on a suit and entering a formal, uncomfortable place. Maybe you think, “what do I even say?” or “why would anyone meet with me?” But networking doesn’t have to be so scary (or formal). Every student has access to the best network of your life - your college campus.

In recent years, the concept of networking has become synonymous with high-stress and high-pressure events, which can hinder rather than enhance your professional journey. But, so much as striking a conversation with the student next to you in class or a friend-of-a-friend you meet at a social can lead to connections you can’t even imagine. Your next internship or job could even come from those living around you right now! To help you make that first step in networking as a college student, we’ll dive into some easy actions you can take in your day-to-day life on campus to start building your network! 

Let’s Start by Depressurizing Networking

In today's fast-paced, hyper-competitive world, the word "networking" often evokes images of polished professionals, networking events, and business cards exchanged like commodities. This image can be intimidating, especially for college students who are just beginning their journey into the professional world. However, it's vital to understand that networking is not merely a means to an end; it's a connection that can and should be personalized to be most effective. 

Let’s re-wire “networking” in college to “making new friends,” because a crucial step in networking is nurturing these relationships like you would with peers! Not every connection you make needs to have a purpose right now, nor do they need to be someone you hang out with socially. But, being nice to everyone and establishing a rapport can create a relationship you both can rely on professionally, like a symbiotic relationship!

3 Things to Think About Before You Start!

1️⃣ Remember That Networking is About Building Relationships, Not Transactions

The most significant aspect of depressurizing networking is to shift your focus from transactions to relationships. Think of it as cultivating meaningful connections with people who share your interests and values. Rather than viewing every interaction as an opportunity to get something for yourself, approach it as a chance to learn, engage, and connect on a personal level.

In college, you're surrounded by a diverse group of individuals who are passionate about various fields and subjects. By engaging in meaningful conversations, you can gain fresh insights, perspectives, and even lifelong friends!

2️⃣ Authenticity Over Superficiality

In the age of social media, we've grown accustomed to carefully curated profiles and personas. But when it comes to networking in college, authenticity is your most important tool. A genuine connection with someone is far more powerful and fulfilling than superficial interactions based on masks or pretenses.

3️⃣ Diverse Connections Enrich Your College Experience

In college, networking isn't just about mingling with future professionals in your field - it's about exploring diverse perspectives and broadening your horizons. Engage with students from different majors, backgrounds, and cultures. You'll discover that every person you meet can teach you something new. These diverse connections can expose you to different ideas, interests, and opportunities you might not have considered otherwise. 

Now How Do I Do This?

Here are 5 low-effort step in how to network effectively in college:

1️⃣ Attend Campus Events:

   - Participate in club meetings, organization activities, and social events on campus

   - Join student organizations related to your interests and academic goals

2️⃣ Study Groups:

   - Form or join study groups for your classes

   - Collaborate with peers on coursework, share knowledge and experiences

3️⃣ Reach out to Professors:

   - Establish connections with professors by attending office hours or just introducing yourself 

   - Professors can be valuable mentors, provide guidance and resources for future internships and research opportunities

4️⃣ Attend Career Fairs:

    - Participate in college career fairs to meet potential employers and network with students pursuing similar career paths

5️⃣ Alumni Networking:

    - Explore opportunities to connect with alumni who can offer guidance and mentorship in getting jobs you want that they already do

    - Alumni often have valuable insights that can help you learn more about real-world jobs

Networking in college is an invaluable resource for personal and professional development. By depressurizing the process and focusing on building genuine, meaningful relationships, you can create a network that enriches your college experience and sets the stage for a successful future!