Select Page

Post University Blog

In an evolving job market, few strategies provide as consistent a competitive edge as professional networking.

Employees at all levels are well aware of this, as revealed by data from LinkedIn. Based on results from the platform’s global survey, 80 percent of today’s professionals regard networking as vital to success in the workplace. Results back this perception, with 70 percent of the respondents claiming to be hired  by companies where they had previously fostered connections.

Typical discussions of networking touch on the how and why, but there are people who have it all wrong on the when. Networking should not occur only at the peak of your career but rather pursued in college to prepare for a successful job search later. Keep reading to learn how to network in college and why this is so important.

What Is Networking?

Networking involves the strategic use of personal and professional contacts to achieve targeted career goals. These objectives can vary dramatically from one professional to the next, with people angling for specific jobs while others simply want to learn more about intriguing career opportunities. In either situation, the main goal involves career improvement, with long-term prospects typically top of mind.

Why Is College Networking Important?

Every professional relies on networking to find and take advantage of new career opportunities. This is where the adage ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ rings true. This saying is not entirely correct, as targeted skills and knowledge are essential in today’s demanding job market — but there is no denying that a strong professional network can provide a valuable boost.

College is the most impactful time for networking. This is when you have the best access to industry leaders, not to mention opportunities to meet similarly ambitious students who will one day rise through the ranks.

As a college student, you can network with a bit less pressure and, instead of stressing about your next job, relax and enjoy the process. College networking is like early investing; anything you contribute now will pay far greater dividends than if you were to wait and start later.

How Do You Network in College?

College networking resembles more conventional forms of mid-career networking but with key distinctions.  These differences will stem from your relative inexperience with networking. At this point, you may not have professional contacts or even a clear understanding of where you want your career to go.

Not sure where to start? With networking, like anything in college, simply beginning is the most crucial step. The goal is not perfection but getting comfortable with the concept of career networking. To help, we are providing the following networking tips you can implement right away:

Set Goals and Do Your Homework

Before you hit up the hottest networking events, take time to define what you want to accomplish. Here, as with any area of academic or professional life, goal setting is crucial. If you neglect to define your personal why for networking, it will feel like a glorified social hour or social media scroll session rather than an opportunity to boost your career.

While there is the possibility you will have the long-term goal of building strong contacts, this is not a targeted enough mission to have any real impact. Instead, begin with an overarching objective you can divide into smaller goals.

For example: if your goal is to get a strong entry-level job with a highly regarded employer, one of your short-term aims might be to chat with current employees and seek out which employers align with your values. You can further build on this goal by reaching out to current employees on LinkedIn or approaching them during networking events.

Who Do You Know Already?

Chances are that your network is stronger than you realize. Friends, family members, and coworkers all have valuable connections, which you can leverage to a surprising extent.

To begin, examine your closest contacts on your phone (or on social media) — or simply create a list of who you know from various parts of your life, circling or placing a checkmark near anyone who is even tangentially involved in your future career field. Do not be afraid to ask these people for guidance. Most are eager to see you succeed and will be happy to help.

Develop Good Relationships With Your Professors

Professors rarely work in academia simply because they love the idea of lectures. They crave genuine interactions with students who are as excited about the subject matter as they are. They want to see students thrive and will happily lend a helping hand to those who put in the effort.

Get to know your professors and you just might find that they are amazing networking contacts and, more importantly, amazing people.

Speaking up in class can be helpful, but nothing matches the power of office hours. If you neglect this valuable time, you could miss one of college’s best networking opportunities. Virtual interactions can also be highly impactful, as any online student with a solid professional network will tell you.

Your Online Presence Is Important

Social media provides a strong starting point for modern college networking. Take a close look at your inner circles on LinkedIn, Instagram, or even Twitter to determine where your connections are strongest.

LinkedIn is especially helpful, as it can reveal who is in your followers’ circles and which second or third-tier contacts might be receptive to getting in touch.

No matter which platforms you prioritize, you will want to cultivate a targeted presence that reflects the unique qualities you bring to the table, as well as your goals for the future.

Join Clubs and Organizations Relevant to Your Interests

Academic clubs are a strong starting point for college networking. Likely, there is at least one club that relates to your degree program. Top examples worth exploring include accounting societies, STEM clubs, and business societies. Similarly, student government gives you a chance to socialize while you also build connections and leadership skills.

Avoid focusing exclusively on academic organizations. You also deserve to let loose with extracurricular activities such as gaming associations, equine clubs, or athletic teams. The people you meet through these clubs could become not only lifelong friends but also amazing professional contacts. Meanwhile, you can make memories or simply recharge.

Volunteer for an Important Cause

Volunteering can be an amazing networking opportunity — and it has the added benefit of helping you do good in your community. While any volunteer position can make a world of difference, you will gain the most personal and professional benefits from pursuing something that aligns with your degree program.

For example: if you hope to eventually work in healthcare, commit to a volunteer position that places you in relevant settings such as hospitals or assisted living facilities.

Find a Mentor

Networking is challenging work, and for every success, you may encounter disappointments. You will be more inclined to continue putting in the work if you have unwavering support from a mentor.

This person will not necessarily lead you directly to your next job, but they can provide valuable insight and function as your personal cheerleader. Your mentor could even help you with the how of networking — knowing what to say, for example, or how to follow up after establishing a strong connection.

Take Advantage of Your College Career Center

The college career center is a wonderful resource, and yet, it is often underutilized by students. This is where you go for leads on internships or entry-level jobs, as well as help with crafting your resume or creating the perfect cover letter.

College career centers are also networking powerhouses. Stop by regularly to learn about upcoming networking events or to get leads on other opportunities that could expand your professional network.

 Give Back to Your Network

The right mentality can completely transform your networking journey. If you enter the process only thinking of what you stand to gain, your connections will not be as strong or as fulfilling.

Instead, consider how you can contribute to your network. This could mean pointing a fellow student in the right direction — for example, introducing your classmate to a professional contact you have enjoyed getting to know.

When you approach the process with a give-and-take mindset, you will find that others are more likely to come to your aid when you need a favor.

Stay in Touch And Follow Up

There is more to networking than simply making initial contacts. Even the strongest connection will fade over time, so it is up to you to maintain newly built relationships. This begins with staying in touch online, sending the occasional email or LinkedIn message to check that your professional contacts are doing well.

More importantly, you will want to meet in person with these individuals on occasion. A simple lunch date can make a world of difference, even if you only see a particular contact once or twice each year.

Grow Your Network at Post

The value of a college education is multi-faceted, and at Post University, we are pleased to bring a range of academic, experiential, and social opportunities to the table. Reach out today to learn more about our degree programs and our Center for Career and Professional Development.

Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a complete list of our programs on our website or reach out directly!

Please note jobs and/or career outcomes highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs or career outcomes expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s program and its outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions advisor.