Networking tips for college students with no job, connections, or network
Networking as a college student is hard, and it’s even harder if you lack the gateway resources that make networking more accessible. For example, holding a part-time job at a firm would introduce you to coworkers who can bring you along to events. Since most students don’t have career-path jobs and high-powered connections, this article will explain how to start a network from scratch.
My tips are broken down into two parts. Firstly, I’ll explain where to network and then I’ll dive into how you can do it.
Join Professional Associations
Every industry has at least one professional association, like the Canadian PR Society or Canadian Bankers’ Association. These organizations often charge lower membership fees for students, which are worth it when you factor in the free food and members-only events. Certain associations offer mentoring and leadership development programs.
If you’re not sure which associations exist in your field, then try a Google search and ask your professors.
Attend Campus Events
Your university will have alumni events, career fairs, and speaker series. These events are networking gold because they are tailored to students! You don’t need an internship with Google on your resume to access these services; you just need to put on a clean shirt.
Do your own research
There are lots of one-off events happening in major cities. To find them, you should regularly search Eventbrite’s networking section. However, I’ve also found interesting events via Facebook’s “happening near you” section and through straight up Google searches. There is a conference for pretty much everything.
Now you know where to network. It’s time to dive into the “how” part of the equation.
Here are my 5 tips to make networking easier:
- Try attending events with a speaker and a clearly established theme. Do a bit of research on the speaker and the theme in advance, so then you’ll be able to discuss the main topic with anyone in the room.
- Three years ago, I gave myself the goal of asking a question at every event that I attend. It pushed me to ask a question about diplomacy to former Prime Minister Paul Martin at an event. Asking a question means that the whole room hears your name and one poignant thought that you had that day. This can help break the ice in later conversations.
- Start following my networking advice enough to find a mentor, and then reevaluate. Talk to them about your goals and what you want to get out of networking. A good mentor will help you piece it all together.
- If I’m watching a speech at an event, and it’s not extremely formal, then I’ll usually live tweet it. Interacting with the attendees on Twitter can expose you to people who you otherwise may have not spoken to. Make sure to tag presenters’ Twitter handles when you reference their quotes.
- After an event, consider writing a thank you post on LinkedIn to the organizers or writing about what you learned at the event. LinkedIn is perfect for this; the algorithm is popping and the content reachers far more people than on Facebook.