College Networking: Tips for Leveraging Your Contacts

Last Updated on September 28, 2014

Illustration of a young African American female college student sorting her social network of friends and professional contacts.

Great things happen when you cultivate the contacts in your network. Collecting contact information is one thing. Leveraging the relationships you develop takes cultivation. That means communicating in a genuine, relevant way instead of worrying about the number of people in your phone or your social media followers. The key is to be thoughtful about how you communicate with those folks.

Here are tips to maximize your college networking experience:

Be open to all possibilities.

There will be situations, such as lectures or events, in which you will be around people who are not in your field of study or your area. Never close the door on those folks. In today’s technological climate, someone can quickly get you to someone who has common interests. One way you can make a positive impression is by sending a follow-up email stating that you hope there is a way to help each other even though you are in separate fields or different areas.

Look for the win-win.

Figure out how both you and your contacts can benefit from your connection. The win-win doesn’t have to be about a job or financial gain. The opportunity to get one step closer to short term or long term goals is enough for many.

Use social media wisely.

Social media has been the best networking tool ever in the history of…networking! With valuable resources such as LinkedIn, BranchOut and Viadeo, it is important to take full advantage of the opportunities they present to make valuable connections. There are things to remember, however:

  • Keep your profile in sync with your updated résumé.
  • Make sure your grammar and spelling are on point.
  • Join groups connected to your field of study, career, institution, organization(s), or interests.
  • Post updates that promote achievement in your field but don’t limit yourself to such posts. Post information that will contribute to the knowledge of your peers to enhance your credibility.

Don’t make it personal.

In networking, the most respected people are those who communicate professionally, no matter what the situation is. Networking is about resource acquisition, not personal feelings. Let’s say you communicate with someone and become attracted to him or her—something that happens every day. Be genuinely professional, not “professional” as a means to get this person’s attention. When that line gets crossed, the person making advances often loses the respect of others.

Offer advice and/or encouragement whenever possible.

Everyone wants a reciprocal relationship when it comes to networking. At the risk of drifting too much into the metaphysical, one receives rewards, tenfold, when he or she takes the time to simply help others. On the more concrete side of things, being recognized as a valuable source of information could lead to prime opportunities.

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