Never too Early to Start Networking

College is the time to figure things out. You make lifelong friends, find the right career path for you and even learn a little more about yourself in the meantime. However, there are some things you may have wished you figured out a little earlier through college. For me, it was networking.

When it came to making connections, building a LinkedIn profile and putting myself out there, I always told myself it was “too early.” I  thought I needed to focus on other things to prepare myself for my career. In hindsight, I wish I would have learned more about the importance of building up my networking skills and took the time to make it a bigger part of my college career.

My Experience

As a first generation college graduate, the whole experience started out pretty overwhelming for me. I feel as though I missed some networking opportunities because I was too focused on learning and passing my classes and I didn’t take the time to build more relationships through my classes. My biggest regret was not taking a career building course––but this was also something that was never mentioned nor encouraged to me by my advisors.

In my personal experience, I feel that a lot of University’s don’t focus enough on these fundamental skills that are huge part in creating professional careers. In a recent LinkedIn survey and study, results revealed that over 85% of jobs are filled via networking. This number was absolutely mind blowing to me. If this many jobs are being filled due to networking, then why isn’t it a topic of priority in classes?

Networking, resume writing and career building are all topics I wish I would have learned more directly about. I feel as though the college of business most prominently teaches these skills over other programs. So if these classes already exists, why aren’t they encouraged and/or made mandatory for all programs? In my opinion, a University that requires these classes early on would better prepare their students––therefore standing out among other Universities with graduates that are more confident in their job readiness. Here are the five major networking skills and services I wish I would have learned and utilized through college:

  • How to Work a Room

This was a term I had never known until recently, but knowing how to work a room is an essential networking skill for all stages in life. Especially in college where there are tons of niches, free events and countless organizations––knowing how to work a room is crucial. What most students, like me, don’t or didn’t know before is that there is a correct (or more effective) way to socialize as a professional.

  • Taking Advantage of Career Service

With majority of colleges being so big, the different services, organizations and groups can often get lost in the shuffle. One that should be made to stand out though, is any of the career services offered on campus. What most students don’t realize is there are usually advisors whose job is to specifically help students find internships and  job opportunities. Of course, I had not heard of this until after I graduated but it would have been a huge help for me and I think it should be promoted more throughout campuses.

  • Building up my LinkedIn Profile

This was a huge one for me personally, because I did not begin to build up my LinkedIn profile until my very last semester of college. Before that, I always used the excuse that it was “too early” to create a professional profile. In reality, I had no idea what components it took to create a successful and effective profile. Looking back, it would have been much easier to have created a profile as a freshman and built it up so by the time I was ready for a job, I would have an all-star profile and knew the ins and outs of the platform.

Students studying and networking

  • Making Connections…and Maintaining them

One of my biggest downfalls as a college student was never following up with relationships I had made…or never making them in the first place. College is the best place to make connections with those around you––professors, your peers and student leaders. It’s so important to put yourself out there, and even more important to follow up with the connections you make while networking.

  • Going to Events Alone

This may not be difficult for some students, but for others it’s a skill that must be acquired throughout college. I think it would have been more beneficial for me to start feeling comfortable going to events alone. Doing things with friends or going to events with people you always know can become a bad habit; it can be easy to fall back to your friends and not make the connections you came to the event for.

In hindsight of my college career, these are five of the major networking flaws I found through my college experience. I think if I were to have learned these skills or utilized these services earlier on, I would have been set up for a more successful future and it would have made the job search a little easier. With college enrollment continuing to rise, I think University’s would really stand out by encouraging these networking skills and building classes around them––therefore benefitting their students as well.

For help with getting a jump-start on networking practices and skills, click here and check out the BD-PRo Network PRo Toolkit!

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