Having a strong college network provides you with many perks. One of the main benefits is that it can help you find a job with a good company after graduation. But asking your friends, peers, and professors for referrals or other favors only works if you're willing to put in the effort. You'll need to improve your confidence and be patient during the process, because rarely do things in life come served on a silver platter.
When looking for a job after graduation, you must harness the power of your college network the right way. Do this and you'll create lasting, supportive relationships and find your dream job—allowing you to find success now and in the future. Here are some tips to help you build your network at school and land a job post-graduation.
Maintain the right mindset
It’s vital to have the right mindset when reaching out to people in your network. Let’s say, for instance, you’re interning with a company and getting to know some of the employees. If you’d like a referral from someone you don’t know very well, take the time to get to know them. It's best to form an honest relationship with someone before asking for favors; they’ll be more likely to give you a referral if they consider you a friend or respected colleague. Plus, if they know you and your skills well, they’ll be able to tell their boss about your talents. In order to build relationships and “pitch” your skills, you must be confident. So work on your confidence and communication skills—your efforts will greatly benefit you.
Get out of your comfort zone
Sometimes reaching out to people is uncomfortable, especially if you aren’t close. Even so, you're going to have to get out of your comfort zone in order to build a network. If you're not sure where to start, here are a few ideas:
- Meet other students and professionals at job fairs.
- Join Facebook groups to chat with people about different industries.
- Create a profile on LinkedIn and start reaching out to people in your field.
Start by connecting with others often to grow your network in size, then focus on growing those relationships individually. If you're an introvert, it may seem like an effort. But as you do it more, it’ll get easier. So get out there and start building your network!
Focus on developing real professional relationships
If all your conversations revolve around you, you have the wrong approach to networking. That’s not how you build friendships—and it’s not how you build networking relationships either. In order to build strong, lasting connections, you need to be interested in other people. You have to ask them about their interests and stay updated with their projects. After connecting with someone at a job fair or recruiting event, stay in touch; shoot them a text or an email every once in a while to see what they’ve been working on before asking if they know of any job opportunities available (more on this below). Also, get to know the students in your classes. Learn about their interests and goals. And if you hear about opportunities that might appeal to them, let them know! When you show interest in other people, they’re more likely to show interest in you.
Related: 5 Ways to Build Rapport With People
Use local contacts to your advantage
Are you applying for local jobs? If you have contacts in your area, focus your networking efforts on them. They’re more likely to help you land the job you want. If another student or professor asks about your job hunt, be open and honest; tell them what kind of work you’re seeking and about the degree you’re getting as well as the skills you’ve developed. You may be pleasantly surprised when they connect you with a hiring company. If it’s a company you could see yourself working for, that’s even better! Even if they don’t know anyone who is hiring, being communicative will help keep you in mind if they come across job opportunities. This could lead to a gig sometime in the future.
Keep in touch after college
It's easy to lose contact with people after you graduate. If you’re not close friends, you might go years without talking to people you met in college. Everyone gets busy, which is why you need to go out of your way and make the effort to stay in touch. Send a brief email every once in a while. If you have a phone number, text when it’s appropriate. People appreciate these kinds of check-ins, especially these days when most of us are preoccupied with our own lives. If an old friend or colleague is available, arrange a time to get together; seeing people face to face can benefit you both. It'll give you the chance to catch up and converse about the latest trends in your industry, their industry, or both. Plus, you can share opportunities with each other—and if they work for a company that’s hiring, they may be able to put in a good word for you.
Offer help to your network in return
Make a point to offer help whenever you can. When you help people, they’ll want to help you in return. For instance, let’s say one of your peers started a company in college. Share it on your social media channels to help them grow! Or if that person is hiring and you know someone with the skills they’re looking for, offer to connect them to the other person in your network. Find out specific ways you can aid them professionally. Do this and they may return the favor and help you find a job.
Building a robust network takes time, so don’t get frustrated. You’re likely to get along better with certain people more than others, and that’s okay. Focus on building mutually respectful relationships with a variety of different people in your college network. Be patient, as it can take a while to get to know new people. In time, you should have a steady group of connections—and when you have a reliable network, you can also help one another succeed!
Frame your mind and put in the effort
Building a reliable network takes confidence, practice, and dedication—it won’t happen overnight. But if you make the effort, you’ll start putting things into motion. Landing your dream job is a big undertaking, as exciting as it is. Give yourself a better chance of finding the perfect position by getting to know a variety of people at school and those who work in industries related to your area of study—not only will you learn a great deal from them, but they can connect you with opportunities. In no time at all, you’ll be thriving in your new career, thanks to your smart college networking skills!
Joshua Kuykendall is the business manager and team leader at the Parq at Iliff Station community in Aurora, Colorado.
Get more helpful advice for your future job in our Internships and Careers section.