Networking: How to Do It and How It Can Help You

by Victoria Hadley

They say it’s not about what you know, but who you know.

Networking: a word we’ve all heard and something that many of us fear. Most people at some point hear something like, “You should be able to get a job from networking alone.” That statement can make the idea of networking even more intimidating. Networking is very important and can very much put someone ahead. Who you know can make a huge impact as students begin looking for internships and jobs. Networking doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating. The problem is many people do not know how to network or where to even start.

Here are some tips to begin your college networking journey.

Start Early

Beginning to network early in your college career.  The earlier you begin meeting people in your department, school, and professional field, the better chance you have at fostering these relationships. Meeting someone once is only the start of the process; growing a relationship and showing that you are a worthy contact is a much longer process.

How Should You Do It?

Keep an eye out for informational meetings or events hosted by your department. These are great places to meet professors and counselors who are perfect for asking questions or creating meaningful relationships later on. Making connections with professionals in your field can sometimes be harder, but try a similar approach of attending public events that professionals might attend as well.

Introduce Yourself to Everyone

When I say introduce yourself to everyone, I mean exactly that. If you attend an event with professors or professionals, make a point to talk to everyone you can. You never know who you’ll meet and many professionals are impressed by the confident student who is willing to approach them, introduce themselves, and make an impression. This can be scary—most people struggle with the ability to approach strangers and talk to them about their lives.   Talk to others that are there in situations similar to yours, whether they are other students looking to network or young professionals looking for perspective jobs. Connections like these can come back to be beneficial down the road.

How Should You Do It?

This one is simple. Walk right up to that person and say: “Hello there. My name is ______, and it is very nice to meet you.” Offer a hand shake. Try to start a conversation and ask them about their work, about a football game, or about the school they graduated from; the goal is just to talk to them for a bit. Try to make a good impression. Maybe talk about an interesting hobby you have or find a common interest between the two of you; this can be used to remind the contact of who you are later because you discussed a memorable topic.

Set Up Informational Interviews

Informational interviews are meetings that you can set up with a professional in your field to ask them about their line of work. Focus these interviews on your questions so that you can learn from their experiences. These interviews are great for deciding what kind of internships to apply for, on whether or not to go to graduate school, and even what kind of classes might be helpful to take.

How Should You Do It?

Reach out to professionals within your field by email. This gives them the chance to respond to you at a time that is convenient for them, while a phone call might interrupt them. Offer to buy them lunch. A free lunch is a great way to repay them for taking time out of their schedule to meet with you and answer your questions. Dress professionally for your meeting and bring a resume just in case they ask for it.

Send Thank You Notes

Always send a thank you note. This is very important. Sending a thank you note shows that you appreciate the time that a professional has taken out of their life to meet with you. You should send them in most situations such as after meetings, informational interviews, and interviews for a position.

How Should You Do It?

Thank you notes can be sent in the mail or by email as well. The text should include something along the lines of: “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me. I enjoyed our discussion and it was great meeting with you. I appreciate you taking time out of your day to speak with me. I look forward to speaking again soon.” Don’t overthink it too much. You just want to write a quick note to express your appreciation. The more personalized, the better.

Networking can seem exhausting or unclear, but it gets you so many places in life. Start now and meet as many people as you can, because it really does matter who you know.

In case you want to learn more about networking: