How to Start Networking: Top Tips and Tricks

Starting to network with peers and professionals can feel awkward at first. Here's some advice to get past your initial reservations and just go for it.

There’s a myth going around that networking is a necessary evil. Someone told college students that it’s hard to connect with employers/professors/random strangers working in their desired field. Getting into events is expensive, and even if you get in, there’s no guarantee that you’ll talk to the right people. Let’s disprove those lies right now.

Just talk

The most important part of networking is talking. That’s all there is to it. Everything else is supplemental. And starting a conversation can be easy! If a speaker comes to your lecture, don’t run out the second class ends. Stick around and talk to the speaker: ask them about a specific remark they made, comment on how you agree with their perspective, ask for an informational interview in the future because you’re interested in their field. Just. Talk. To. Them. It’s so easy to make a connection with anyone around you—all you need to do muster up some courage and start talking.

Related: 4 Easy Networking Strategies for Online Students

Have your info ready

Once you feel you’ve made a good connection, you should ideally exchange information, and a business card makes that so much easier. Get a business card ASAP. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, and it’s okay if you don’t have a job title yet. All you need is a simple card from VistaPrint or one you print out yourself that says your name, your major, and a bit of contact info (i.e., email address, phone number, social media handles, etc.). If you have a website, all the better, but you likely won’t need one until at least junior year. If you’re a graphic designer, you should absolutely create your own design, because it’s the easiest way to showcase your talent upfront. Pro-tip: if you leave the back blank, you can write additional information on it. For example, if you’re recommending a conference, book, or website someone should look into, you can jot it down on the back. Additionally, this connects you to that recommendation, so they may reach out to you later to discuss it.

Follow up

Do not forget this tip. If you talk to someone you hope to continue networking with, email them within 48 hours to follow up. If you wait too long, you run the risk of them forgetting the conversation, and that’s a situation you don’t want to be in. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just a note that says:

  • “Dear So-and-So, It was a pleasure to meet you at [event name]. I really enjoyed talking to you about [something you talked about].”

A follow-up will further establish your connection, and you need to make sure you stay on top of it, especially if you talked about any sort of opportunity, like an informational interview or internship. And don’t stop there with follow-ups. Continue to connect whether by following them on social media, interacting through “Likes” and “Retweets,” sending emails just to check in, or stopping to chat with them again at future events. Just a simple, “How have you been?/How’s the dog?” is all you need.

Related: Networking With Alumni From Your School

Know where to network

Yes, all that’s well and good, but where do you network? The answer: everywhere. It doesn’t have to be some fancy event that you paid over $100 to attend. You can network at the grocery store when you see someone sporting a tote bag from your school. Or go to a free event in your area relative to one of your interests (poetry/Moth readings, or events at the public library). Your college may also provide networking opportunities to you such as alumni events or internship and job fairs. Check with your school’s career services office for events available to you.

Set realistic expectations

Don’t go into a networking opportunity assuming that you’ll walk away with everything you’ve ever wanted. You could talk to the CEO of a major company and walk away without any new knowledge and a dead connection. Or you could talk to someone who works part time at a local nonprofit and get a lead on an internship or two. You could even talk to someone with no relation to your interests, but they have a friend you should definitely meet and they’ll pass your information along to them. Go into networking opportunities with an open mind and no agenda. You’ll get more out of these connections if you don’t try to force a specific outcome. Finally, don’t forget that networking isn’t just about furthering your career. You can network strictly to meet interesting people, especially since you might end up being the person they need the connection from, whether it’s recommending someone to fill a position you aren’t qualified for (but your friend is!) or the person who shows them how to use Twitter successfully. Sometimes all you walk away with is a new friend, and that’s just fine.

Related: 4 Easy Networking Strategies for Online Students

It’s true that networking is necessary, especially as you get further into your college career and start looking for internships, volunteer or research opportunities, and (shout out to the seniors) careers. But it’s far from evil. You’re talking about things you’re interested in with like-minded people. Now that’s fun!

Need a break from reading articles? Check out the video advice over on the CollegeXpress YouTube channel!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Tags:

About Kara E. Joyce

Kara E. Joyce is an editor and writer who frequently contributes to CollegeXpress. When she isn’t hunched over editing material, you can find her powerlifting in the gym, pirouetting in a dance studio, or planning her next adventure.

 

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Joseph Johnsly

Joseph Johnsly

High School Class of 2021

It's an honor for me to be writing to share a little about my experience with CollegeXpress. I've been using CollegeXpress for about a year now, and the reason why I chose it is because it provides astonishing scholarships for every student around the globe. Besides that, this organization dispenses all the information necessary to help students get to college. CollegeXpress has helped me have an easier experience with applying to colleges and choosing the best fit for myself.

Amelia

Amelia

High School Class of 2023

CollegeXpress helped open me up to many colleges that fit my interests. I’m only a sophomore in high school, so I like having a lot to look at, and CX does a great job of picking colleges that meet my wants. It's a great website that I'll continue to use until it comes time for me to apply for colleges. I also like that it notifies me through email with options to look at. Thanks CX!

Christina

Christina

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me find Allegheny College with the super-user-friendly search tool for both schools and scholarships. Using CollegeXpress, I was able to search for programs I was interested in studying and find colleges that offered those programs. Also, once you search for the college, CollegeXpress can get you connected!

Kelly Nogueiro

Kelly Nogueiro

Counselor

For me, CollegeXpress has given me a valuable tool to use with my students to explore colleges easily beyond objective data. It helps me find colleges for students that fit their needs and wants that aren’t quite so black and white. It's a wealth of knowledge, and the Type-A side of me loves all the lists and the fact that I know they're coming from folks who know what they're talking about. I share it with colleagues and students alike, and it's always well received.

Katelyn

Katelyn

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress gave me options of schools with my major and from there I was able to pick what was most important to me in a school. Everything was so organized that I could see all the information I needed.

College Matches
X

Colleges You May Be Interested In