When asked to define their top priorities in college, many students would say they aim to earn a good GPA, participate in extracurricular activities, or complete an internship.
All of these things are important, but networking in college is another valuable activity that's often overlooked.
In this article, you'll see how building your professional connections in college can help you during school and beyond. You'll also hear firsthand advice on networking in college from graduates who have been in your shoes.
What Is Networking?
You've likely heard of the concept, but what exactly is networking?
According to Investopedia, networking occurs when individuals with a common profession or interest connect and share information.
Essentially, you're building a personal database of professional connections with individuals, which could help you and your connections in the future.
Let's look at the numbers:
- In a 2020 LinkedIn survey, 73% of participants reported that they were hired in the past through networking (Finances Online).
- Between 70% and 80% of jobs aren't posted publicly (TechJury.net), making networking even more crucial.
- Traditional networking was reported as the most effective way to find a new job, followed by internet job boards (GreatBusinessSchools).
- Various sources estimate that networking fills 50% to 80% of jobs.
Networking is important because it enables you to find job opportunities, help others looking for work, and advance your career.
6 Tips for Networking in College
The numbers make it clear that building professional connections should be among your top priorities in school. To help you get started, we enlisted some Concordia University Texas alumni to share their most helpful advice for networking in college.
Tip 1: Go to As Many Speaking Events as Possible, and Introduce Yourself to the Speakers.
Universities regularly host guest speakers and lecturers on campus or virtually. These events are incredibly valuable, giving you direct access to community and industry leaders.
Vincente "Vinny" Lizcano (BBA '18, MBA '19) suggests that you attend as many guest speaking events as possible and introduce yourself to each speaker.
Lizcano is the co-founder and chief marketing officer of Nimaroh Creative House, a production, design, and development firm that creates marketing assets to strengthen brands.
During his undergraduate studies at Concordia, he attended every session of the College of Business & Communication speaker series and took the initiative to introduce himself to each speaker.
"To have direct access to speakers is one of the unique things that Concordia does," he said. "It gives you direct access that you don't have at big universities."
Lizcano learned that not every speaking event was as relevant to him, but he continued to go because he encountered many speakers who taught him helpful lessons.
"You never know who you'll meet and who you'll stay in contact with," he explained. He encourages students to attend every guest speaker event they can.
Tip 2: Get Involved in Extracurriculars.
Participating in extracurriculars during college can bolster your resume and provide you with even more opportunities to connect with others.
Get involved in extracurriculars. This is one of the most enjoyable ways to start networking in college because you can meet students across different majors and years you may not meet otherwise.
Some student clubs and organizations, like debate club or collegiate DECA, enable you to compete with students from other universities, expanding your network beyond campus.
Extracurriculars are great for honing your networking skills, not to mention many other transferable skills, such as teamwork, problem solving, and critical thinking.
Yisel Lopez (BA '19) joined the Eugene Scassa Mock OAS Program (ESMOAS) while earning her undergraduate degree in Global Public Health at Concordia. She credits these events with helping her practice her diplomatic speech and public relations skills, in addition to providing real-world experience of how to network.
"My best advice is to get involved in as many opportunities as you can," she said.
Tip 3: Get Involved in the Community.
Here's another tip for networking in college: Get involved in the local community.
There are plenty of ways to get involved in meaningful ways, such as volunteering at a local nonprofit, joining the local chapter of an organization that interests you, and attending community events.
Throughout the Concordia MBA program, professors continually encouraged Jeremy de Alcala (BA '13, MBA '15) and his fellow cohort members to make connections by getting involved in the community.
He heeded their advice and got involved in his local community of Buda, Texas, enrolling in the Buda Citizens Academy, serving on the Buda Parks Commission, and joining the Buda Chamber of Commerce Board as a treasurer and then a chair.
"In meeting others and networking with others in the community, it allowed me to start my own business that has prospered over the last few years," he said.
With the support of his professors and community, de Alcala and his wife, Melissa, launched their food truck Green Space, TX -- Natural Foods + Juices in 2017.
Tip 4: Seek Roles That Maximize Your Networking Opportunities.
Assuming a leadership role can take your networking in college to the next level. The more active you are in a group, the more opportunities you'll have for connecting with others.
Marjorie Villafranco (BA '18), a program manager for Communities in Schools of Texas, participated in multiple community service opportunities as a student through Concordia's Service-Learning Program.
She eventually became a Service-Learning leader, guiding other students in the program and connecting with peers to encourage them to join the organization. Additionally, her leadership role required her to forge partnerships with organizations in the community, connecting her with professionals across the area.
While at Concordia, she also volunteered at CASA of Travis County. Here, she learned how nonprofits and the welfare system operate and how to provide services for families. This connection led to Villafranco's first job out of college as a child advocacy specialist.
Tip 5: Use the Career Center to Help You Connect.
One of the most valuable resources available to college students is the career center. The typical role for a career center is to help you find jobs, but the best career centers do even more — they help you build professional relationships.
When networking in college, use the career center to help you connect.
Erin Kanak (BBA '19) is a sales operations analyst at Dell Technologies. During her studies at Concordia, she was searching for an internship to fulfill her degree requirements. She visited Concordia's career center, Vocation & Professional Development (VPD), and a team member worked with her to strengthen her resume.
The support didn't stop there. Shortly after, VPD hosted representatives from Dell Technologies, a multinational tech company headquartered in Round Rock, Texas, to talk with students on campus.
Kanak attended the event and connected with the head of the Human Resources department, who asked for her resume. After speaking with a program management director at Dell, she received an internship offer and gladly accepted it. Upon graduation, the tech giant offered her a full-time role.
"Connections are very important, and it's important to maintain them because you never know when you may need one," Kanak stated.
Tip 6: Create and Maintain a LinkedIn Profile.
The core purpose of the social media platform LinkedIn is to help users build, maintain, and grow their professional networks. A LinkedIn profile is a great tool for networking in college.
Why join LinkedIn? The numbers speak for themselves:
- Four people are hired every minute on LinkedIn.
- More than 180 million LinkedIn accounts are for people in the United States.
- Each connection you make on LinkedIn introduces you to an average of 400 new people.
- Research found that 98% of Fortune 500 companies use LinkedIn to recruit and network.
A LinkedIn profile helps you maintain connections with your network, expand your network beyond individuals you've met in person, and see and apply for job opportunities. Many recruiters also actively use LinkedIn to seek out professionals whose skills and experiences align with their open positions, so a carefully crafted profile can open doors you may not even know about.
Need help getting started? Check out these 19 tips for building an outstanding LinkedIn profile you can use for networking in college.
Make Networking in College a Priority
Now is the time to begin making connections. You never know when you'll cross paths with someone who can make an impact on your career.
For more advice on networking in college and anything else related to your career, check out all of the career resources Concordia University Texas offers.
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