College is the perfect time to create a network of friends and professional connections. Whichever school you attend, you will find people who could become your professional contacts, mentors, brilliant employees, and business partners.
Networking is one of the most important activities you can do anywhere, especially if you’re just starting your professional life. In fact, many companies and organizations spend a huge chunk of their resources to host networking events, otherwise known as social functions, to expand their business contacts and meet potential clients. The consensus is that the best way to land a job or join an organization is through your network.
The strongest link that can be forged between you and a person who isn’t a relative is your mutual experiences in the same institution. A stranger’s demeanor changes immediately after you mention that you went to the same college; more so if you belonged to the same organizations and were under the tutelage of the same professor. He acts friendlier and more open to a conversation with you.
The same thing applies for high school connections, of course, but the networks you build in college have more career relevance because you’re more likely to choose who you add to your professional network based on future goals.
Here are two ways to start building your professional network while still in college.
1. Attend Convocation Lectures
If you have free time right when VIP alumni or industry leaders are giving speeches on a topic relevant to your industry or career path, attend. These convocation lectures are great for meeting new people in the industry, who you might encounter in the future when you’re forging your own path into the world. There’s usually a coffee break or an afternoon tea in between speeches, during which you can mingle.
Remember the people you meet in these events. It’s great to be able to say “we met during the seminar on…” when you meet them again after you graduate. These seminars are usually free for students, so don’t waste the opportunity to rub elbows with those that could potentially become your colleagues or employers.
2. Be Active in Your Organization
College was a long time ago, but I still remember that guy who went around campus with a tin can, collecting donations for a charitable organization he set up along with several classmates. His nickname was “fund drive” because that was what he always called out when he made his rounds. He bawled like a baby in front of everyone when a bunch of foster home kids serenaded him in the parking lot on his birthday. I don’t remember any of the other members of his club, just him.
Ten years after college, you will remember the people that are active in school organizations, especially the student leaders. You still know their names and you can remember their faces. These are the people that stood out to you in college, and if you ever met them again, you would instantly connect these people with a fond college memory.
This kind of recognition plays a big role in networking. If you’re active and visible in your campus and in your organization, you’ll spend less time trying to make a good impression when you meet a former schoolmate in an industry affair or in the workplace. If you made a good impression on someone, they would want to let you into their network.