Meeting people is an essential part of life. As you grow older, you come to realize that random people that you meet have the possibility of growing into meaningful connections.
All of these connections that you have fostered over the years become your own personal network. From acquaintances who you are friends with on Facebook, to your mom’s best friend who you used to babysit for, these connections all contain value. For some reason, many people aren’t taught the importance of connections and networking until later in their college years. Here are four things about networking that are imperative to know by the time you start college.
Start early. Don’t just wait for a career fair to network. Seek out people who you admire and who are successful in something you are interested in. Reach out to them via LinkedIn or send them an email. Chances are, when you show an interest in speaking with someone, that person will respond in kind and be more than willing to share some tips and tricks about how they got to where they are in life.
Later on in your college career, you will be offered opportunities to meet and connect with successful people in your desired industry. However, many of these events are large productions with hundreds of other students in attendance. In these scenarios, it can be pretty difficult to make yourself stand out among the sea of students and have enough time with someone to form a genuine connection.
This is why knowing the importance of networking at a very early stage in your career is essential to the development of good and resourceful connections. This will give you time to jump start your initiatives to find successful people to reach out to.
Keep in touch. Once you feel like you have met and connected with someone with whom you want to keep in your network, make an effort to keep in touch with them. Handing someone your resume and giving them your business card at your school’s career fair is not enough. Make sure you get the information of the person with whom you were speaking. Send them a follow up email with a little note about what you enjoyed about the conversation that you had. This will greatly increase their chance of remembering you among the many students who they spoke with but never corresponded with afterwards.
Likewise, if you make a connection with someone who you met in a less formal setting, it is still important to send a follow up email so that you form a real connection. Plus, this will make things much more fluid if you ever want to reach out to them in the future.
Find a mentor. Finding a mentor is one of the most beneficial things that you could do for yourself in terms of setting yourself up for a successful future. Many colleges offer mentorship programs where students can apply to be matched with a professional in their desired field.
These opportunities are incredible because they immediately set you up with someone who is excited to take you under their wing. Along with being able to shadow these mentors and form a connection with them, if you play your cards right, they can connect you with a vast amount of their own personal connections that can lead you to incredible and unexpected opportunities such as critical industry success secrets and even job offers.
If your school doesn’t offer a mentorship program, consider finding a mentor within a teacher whom you admire. This will allow you to form a connection that will benefit the way you are perceived by that teacher and they may even express their pride in you to people that they are connected with- leading, once again, to unexpected opportunities.
Be kind. The absolute most important thing to do when networking is to be kind, gracious, and positive. This should be applied in your daily life and in every situation. When speaking with strangers or meeting new people, being someone who is likeable is a very strong asset. You never know who you are going to meet.
The lady who you are talking with before your yoga class may very well be a CEO of your most desired company. The man who sits next to you on the bus may be a tattoo artist looking for an apprentice. You never really know what opportunities and connections lie ahead. Therefore, it is extremely important to be kind to everyone you meet.
Being kind and gracious also goes a long way at networking events too. No recruiter or professional will want to form a connection or help someone who shows a dull level of interest or has an entitled attitude. Know how to tailor your mannerisms to be as likeable as possible and more people will want to connect with you.