Networking Guide for Students: 8 Ways to Make an Impact with the Right People
A networking guide for students usually centers on the use of social media. While that’s part of it, there’s a lot more to it than that. In the following article, we’ll discuss the networking tips you’ll need to push your education and your career forward. Let’s begin by talking about:
Why Networking Will Be So Important to Your Future
Networking will be one of the most important skills to learn if you hope to have a future. It helps you develop on both personal and professional levels. For starters, most of the good jobs are not advertised now. That trend will only continue in the future. Or, if they are advertised, they’ll be gone by the time you hear about them.
On a professional level, networking helps you stand out in a sea of applicants. Think about it. Whenever a company posts a job posting to their social media page, it can get thousands of hits. Let’s say only 20 percent of those are engaged. You’re still up against 200 people for one position. And that assumes they’re only posting on a single social network or job board and have a respectable following.
But if you know how to properly network — that is, make real, human connections with movers and shakers within the company — your resumé will climb to the top of their slush pile in a hurry.
On a personal note, your ability to network will help you win friends, relationships, and just generally be a fun person to be around. This will boost your social life in many ways, and it will give you continued training at those soft skills that are so important amid the work-life balance.
For the remainder of the article, we’ll talk about the specific steps you can take to work this out in your favor. But first, we need to find a basic starting point. To help with that, here is:
What We Will Assume About Your Networking Knowledge Thus Far
To get the most out of this article, you’ll have to come to it from a place of basic knowledge. That means you’ve already done a little legwork digitally, and you know enough about the practice to understand its importance and potential. Basically, we’re assuming that:
- You’ve got your social media in order: meaning that you’re active on one or more channels and you know that whatever you post on there lives forever. Hopefully, that knowledge has led you to make only good decisions, avoiding anything offensive, harshly outspoken, or unprofessional.
- You have a better-than-general idea of what you want to do: networking with a reason is essential to connecting with the right people in the appropriate venues and with the right set of expectations. Failing to organize your networking efforts may lead to having many acquaintances. But it won’t be as valuable as one really solid connection that’s pertinent to the field you’re vying for.
- You know who some of the major reachable players are: meaning that you’ve thought about the previous bullet-point enough to know whom the companies are that dominate in your field, whom their competitors are, and how to connect with valuable decision-makers at both.
Those are the prerequisites. Now here are the steps you need to take.
1. Look for Ways to Serve
People, especially students, often tend to look at networking as a one-sided relationship. Lack of experience in how it’s done only exacerbates the problem. The general thrust is that networking isn’t networking if you don’t get something out of it. Seldom do novice networkers think about giving or adding value.
The next time you find it difficult to network, just remember four little words: “How can I help?” Approach each and every new contact with that question, and watch their face spark. The mere act of demonstrating that you’re not there to use them will resonate, and they’ll remember you whenever they do have something you can help them with.
Thankfully, this generosity of spirit tends to be reciprocated by the connection you’re helping. And since the nature of the networking relationship is often lop-sided — as in one inexperienced person trying to connect with someone more experienced — the act of helping only has an upside to it. In other words, when the other person reciprocates, they’ll be doing so in a way that gives you an opportunity for advancement of some kind.
2. Tailor Your Approach to the Individual
Another thing to keep in mind when you’re networking is that each person is unique. You don’t want to use the same spiel, talk about the same topics, emit the same attitude. Doing so will only increase the likelihood of you being seen as insincere.
No, your best bet before a networking outreach is to do a lot of research on the person you’re approaching. This research will make it easy to generate relevant and engaging conversations that are directly pertinent to that individual.
If you’re having trouble getting started with this endeavor, just Google the person and look up their social media accounts. If you find a hit — and they’re usually out there — do a little deep dive to learn more about the person. Then, generate a list of questions you feel they would not mind talking about.
3. Make Human Contact
Social networking is a bit of a misnomer if all you’re doing is friending or following people and expecting them to do the same. Unfortunately, that’s the way many people handle it. They don’t stop to make human contact. And by “human contact,” we mean they don’t seek out an individual who can actually help them.
LinkedIn offers one of the most fertile grounds for true networking. That’s because they actually connect you to the people working for the companies that are featured. Not only that, they give you insight into the types of work those individuals do in their employment. It allows you to better know whom you’re speaking to.
Other forms of social media are too numbers-driven. They can be used in a more responsible manner, but so often aren’t. Still, don’t let it discourage you. Just realize that, depending on the network, you may not be dealing with a majority who are there for the same reasons as you.
4. Be Willing to Do What Others Will Not
Don’t be afraid to do the dirty work. Some people will be unwilling, for fear of being taken advantage of. But growth-minded people — the kind who are great at networking — know that no job is beneath them as long as it allows them to learn something.
Now, if you’re just doing dirty work with no upside, then it can burn you out in a hurry. But if there is some reciprocation there — the person you’re helping takes you under their wing and teaches you some vital piece of information — then it’s just another positive step in the right direction.
5. Teach When You Have the Opportunity
Teaching others how to do something can assist in the networking process because, presumably, the individual you’re teaching either has to or wants to learn about something. Either way, you’re helping them accomplish a goal or objective. That can greatly help out whenever they have a piece of information or tip that you could benefit from.
A side benefit of teaching others — it helps you deepen your understanding of the subject yourself. This makes you even more of an expert than you already were and increases your marketability with that particular knowledge base or skill set.
6. Share Passions, Even If They Are Unrelated to Your Goals and Objectives
You never know which important person will share the passion that you have. You also never know what that commonality will lead to. Take Adam Carolla, for example. Long before he got famous on the KROQ morning show or delved into The Man Show with Jimmy Kimmel, he was a carpenter who did some work for Jay Leno.
The men bonded over their love and knowledge of cars. Over the years, Carolla, a man who couldn’t even read when he became successful, has found Jay Leno to be invaluable in the continued development of his career. It’s a friendship that has only grown since Carolla became the Father of Modern Podcasting about 10 years ago. And it all started because of something completely unrelated to what the two men do for a living.
7. Keep Nurturing the Relationship
Don’t look at a networking relationship as something you handle all at once. It should ideally be a relationship, and those are ongoing. You have to keep in touch. You have to add value to one another’s lives, even if it’s just to drop in with a quick joke to brighten a rough day.
Networking relationships, like friendships, are not “one-and-done.” They’re plants that need plenty of water and sunlight. If they get those two things, then the sky’s the limit.
8. Friend a Gatekeeper
Too hard meeting or getting a response from the person you want in your network? Aim for their gatekeeper. If they’re high enough on the totem pole, then they’ll have one. You just have to focus on whom that gatekeeper is and how you will approach them to get what you want.
Let Networking Guide You to a Better Tomorrow
Your networking should guide you toward making a meaningful connection. From there, it’s simply about growing the connection into a positive working relationship and maybe even a friendship. Now it’s your turn. What are some of the things you’ve done to strengthen your professional network? And if you haven’t done anything yet, what are you waiting for?
[Featured Image by PxHere, fair use]