One of the most important times to network and socialize with like-minded peers is during your time at university. It is not dissimilar to making friends, however, if done at random you may not be setting yourself up for amazing opportunities after you graduate.
The strongest network is made up of genuine connections. While attending university, you have a unique blend of time and opportunity to forge these lifelong connections that can have a meaningful impact on the rest of your life.
At Florida National University, we have Alumni events that include networking, but get started now with these 8 simple tips and tricks to do before you’re walking across the stage with a diploma.
1. Participate in Extracurricular Activities
Unlike high school, the breadth of extracurricular activities in college available is usually much more specific to your interests. The trick is to seek them out. When making connections with those who enjoy the same activity, you are in a position to interact on a consistent basis in a natural setting. Depending on the activity, it could be a way to make friends outside of your area of study or if it is related to your program, then a way to improve each other through discussion or practice. Having friends inside and outside your program has its advantages, so just be sure to choose an activity that you enjoy.
2. Work at Your University
You’ll find over and over again that in life, it’s not what you know, but whom you know. Visit your academic department often in both an effort to the network but ultimately to land you a job if the opportunity arises. This kind of “in” with the academic department gives you privileged access to the event programming, leading scholars and figures in your field, and a central figure for students who go through the department. It also gives you a bit of experience all while making you the go-to person to network with!
3. Volunteer at Events Around the City
You are never more welcomed as a volunteer than when you are a university student. Don’t be one of those college students who only live to party on the weekend; instead get ahead of the game by having fun while networking all across the city. Search popular annual events, inquire about events that your university is partnering with, grab a calendar of events from your local community center, read your local newspaper – all of it! Once you have some events in mind, visit the website and send an email letting them know that you’re a student who is available and would love to participate. Make a great impression while volunteering and you never know what doors can open up.
4. Go to University Events
While grabbing that calendar of community events, grab one from your campus student life office too. Resources at universities are typically underutilized by the student body, including the events they host. Once you graduate you’ll be too busy with a job and other responsibilities, so be open to investigating these events even if you’re just casually interested. At these events, you’ll often meet one or two others like yourself who are there out of curiosity. These can be some of your greatest networking opportunities as you can experience the event together and discuss your other disciplines.
5. Connect on LinkedIn
Don’t simply make all this effort to participate, join, volunteer, or even work at your college without making this crucial step; add them on LinkedIn! Even if you think that you’ll never speak to this person again, LinkedIn is a great way to learn about opportunities and learn from what others post. As a professional platform, connections post news relevant to your industry and generally want to collaborate no matter how long it has been since first making your acquaintance. That said, send the request to connect while their knowledge of you remains fresh and watch your online network grow.
6. Do Internships and Apprenticeships
More formal than simply volunteering, being an intern or conducting an apprenticeship can be a direct entry point into your future career. More often than not, companies prefer to hire someone who has already been vetted and knows their company culture and processes. If you’re fortunate enough to land one of these, don’t waste the opportunity. Be enthusiastic and memorable for your added value to the company during your time. At the very least you’ll walk away with experience and references, and at best you could have a position in your industry before you even graduate.
7. Reach Across Department Lines
Instead of waiting for opportunities to present themselves to meet people from other departments, visit other departments and ask how you can network with students in that program. They may suggest specific events or joint club meetings that you didn’t know were happening all along! After college, working with other departments is commonplace in the workplace, so get started now and make connections that will enrich your university experience – and your network.
8. Ask for Introductions
Sometimes the best approach is the most straightforward. If you know of someone you’d like to add to your network, find a way to get an introduction. This can be done either through a mutual connection or a straightforward email introducing yourself. Some of the best networks are born out of mentorships. Asking someone you admire or want to emulate for their advice or opinion is a great way to get on their radar for an internship, apprenticeship, or even just a referral. These are all valuable on their own, plus you’d add them to your network.
Our simple tips and tricks might sound easy, but they do work and can have lasting results on your academic and professional career. It takes work and strategy to make sure you are spending your time in college in ways that are both enriching and valuable.
Contact Student Services to learn how you can get involved and start growing your network today!