If you think you don’t know how to network, just take out your cellphone and go to your contacts. You are already networking. Believe it or not, but some students have no idea what networking is or why it is important. In a business sense, networking is like your yellow pages or directory. Whether you need someone who can design you a website or help you get that foot in the door at a job opening, networking is a powerful tool.
I remember reading that power can be judged by the influence of one’s network. If that is the case, then it is imperative that individuals begin working on building up their network as early as possible. One of the first places that you can start building solid relationships is during college. Everyday you meet new people and have plenty of opportunities to find groups and meetings that you can network at. For myself, I made it a point to try and meet new people from different majors who I could keep in touch with after college. The advantage of this is that if I ever needed some assistance with something out of my scope, I could always just dial up a friend and ask them. Even better, I could refer my own clients to others that I trust and have built a good relationship with.
While networking can be thought of as a business tool, it can also be a social tool as well. For example, if you see a girl you are interested in, it is always easier to have your friend who knows her, introduce you to her. As a college student, networking is mainly a social aspect. If you want to look at it in a business sense, college students network with each other so that they can exchange homework or to study for tests. Networking can be broken down into two parts: the social part and the business part. The two main questions that you can categorize your contacts are “how do you know them” and “what do they do.” The first, “how do you know them,” can be thought of as the social aspect of networking. Are they friends from school or a club? Where did you meet them? The social aspect of networking is all about getting to know them. The business part or what I call the “what do they do” aspect is all about knowing how you can help each other out. Several of my friends work in the financial market and I frequently ask them about how the market is doing and what they forecast. In return I help them with some social marketing ideas and also have advised them on how they can use the social media platforms like a blog to brand themselves.
If you are still in college or just about to graduate here are some tips and ways you can start building your network:
- Join An Organization
An organization is a great way to meet new people that share the same common interests you have. If you are interested in becoming an accountant for example, many accounting clubs have guest speakers and events where you can meet alumni who now work as accountants. You could even take it a step further by taking an active role in an organization by assuming a position within.
- Be Confident When Talking To Others
Usually when I tell people this they automatically assume it means going up to someone and being as cheerful and memorable as possible. In the ideal world, everyone would want to talk to you but we don’t live in one. Being confident means comfortable talking to others. One of the biggest problems that I noticed is that people become extremely nervous when talking to others because either they don’t know what to say or that they will say something “stupid.” A good way to become comfortable and confident when talking to others is to meet new people through mutual friends or to just let the other person lead the conversation. The best way to do this is after introducing yourself to them, you start asking them questions. By doing so you are taking the heat off yourself in having to talk.
- Use A Social Networking Tool
I don’t think that their is any college student out their that hasn’t heard of Facebook. With that said their is no reason why they shouldn’t have a Facebook account at the very least. As a college student, Facebook is your Rolodex. Not only should students use Facebook to stay in touch with friends and meet new people, but they should expand and use other sites like LinkedIn and Twitter as that will help them not only start building relationships with other professionals, but also help build their personal brand.
- Stay In Touch
For some, they have a network of maybe 200 people but only talk to about 40-50 of them. While it is unreasonable to say that you should stay in touch with all 200 people, you should make an effort to stay in touch with as many as you can. This can be as simple as writing an email to them seeing how they are doing or even sending a text asking whats up. Don’t expect to ask someone you haven’t talked too in a year and a half to be as helpful.
No matter how big or small your network, remember that it is your network. Just like Batman’s utility belt which helps him beat bad guys, your network is a powerful tool that can be used in the game of life. While we may not be cleaning up the streets of Gotham City or even have the excitement of driving around in the Batmobile, we will encounter obstacles and situations where we alone cannot beat. When that happens, we need only to turn to our network of friends and ask for their aide.