Have you ever heard the old saying, “it isn’t always about what you know, but who you know?” While academics obviously play a critical role in preparing for success after college, making social connections that can help you advance your future career can be just as essential. That’s why networking, or cultivating productive relationships for employment or business purposes, is an important aspect of social wellness for college students. Now more than ever, it’s important to build a solid network in order to open yourself to a wide array of career opportunities – especially while you’re still in college. This week, we’ll discuss seven steps you can take now to build your professional network.
- Start with People You Already Know
Think of the contacts you have through family, friends, roommates, and of course, Philadelphia Futures, and begin to expand your network by asking them about people they know in certain careers. You will find that most people are very willing to share their knowledge with you.
- Get to Know Your Professors
Many of the professors you have right now can be invaluable sources of advice, guidance, and networking. Teachers and professors have associations and relationships in the business world as well as the campus community, and could even set up introductions that could lead to a job in the future. However, you have to take the first step and reach out to them. Don’t be shy! Most professors are happy to have the opportunity to share their knowledge with you.
Volunteering is one of the most effective ways to build relationships with people. Your involvement with an organization bonds you to other members or volunteers within that organization. By working together to reach a common goal, you are automatically building relationships that can become valuable resources.
- Intern or Get a Part-Time Job in Your Field
This will provide you with an excellent opportunity to gain hands-on experience in your chosen field. Applications for our paid internship program, Career Futures, will be available before winter break for students who have sophomore standing and at least a 2.5 GPA. If you don’t meet those criteria, make it your goal to apply next year!
- Adopt a Mentor
No matter where you are in your career, it’s always good to have a mentor. This is especially important in college, when you’re at a critical point in your career development. By associating with someone already out in the field, you can learn all kinds of insights that you won’t get in the classroom. For Sponsor-A-Scholar students, be in good touch with your mentor, even if you are busy. For College Connection students, seek out caring adults at your school or in your community.
- Visit Your School’s Career Center – Often!
Your campus career or professional development center can be an invaluable resource in making professional connections. Visit often to find out about networking events and career fairs on or near campus. Remember, they are there to help you succeed!
- Always Be Prepared
Networking happens in unlikely places and in unlikely ways. Always be prepared for opportunities to make a connection. Craft your own “elevator pitch” – a thirty-second speech that sums up who you are, what you do, and what kind of career you hope to enter. For expert advice on crafting your elevator pitch, click here.
Remember, taking the time to cultivate valuable connections in college is an investment in your future. Don’t wait until after graduation to start building your network! Now is the time to let as many people as possible get to know you, and about your interests and goals. You never know when a good connection can turn into a great opportunity!