Starting your career after college can seem like a daunting task. Oftentimes, having a degree alone may not get you your dream job and you may feel like you need to work harder to get where you want and need to be professionally.
One way to get a professional head start while you’re still in school is through networking. Building a network of key contacts in your field of choice and developing relationships with people that can potentially guide you in the early days of your career can help you feel more like you have a place to start once your college life ends your professional life begins.
Building a professional network isn’t just about creating a Rolodex of contacts, though. It’s also an opportunity to practice socializing in the circles you’ll be in professionally; it allows you to continue learning in concrete ways outside of a classroom. Networking can provide an element of real-world experience in your field that you won’t always be able to have in a classroom setting.
In order to build that network, it’s important to put yourself out there. Make connections on LinkedIn with people in your field and take some time to join any professional clubs or groups on campus that might be relevant to your potential future career field. The combination of both of these things could prove to be extremely beneficial in finding job opportunities or even opportunities for internship or apprenticeship programs that you could participate in later on. These are also the kinds of things that can go a very long way on a resume.
Leveraging the connections you make at school is also important to building your professional network, as Concordia University alumnus Vinny Lizcano recently emphasized in an interview with his alma mater. Lizcano’s experience with growing his network in school allowed him to get his career off on the right foot.
“College is a great place to make connections,” he said in the interview. “That’s one of the biggest values. It also offers an alumni network of high-level achievers.”
Another thing you can do in college that can expand your network is to attend any speaking events or conferences in your industry of choice and try to make connections there. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there in those situations, either. Approaching people with confidence shows that you feel comfortable and that you belong in those circles.
There are databases online that list upcoming conferences and speaker events by industry, so the resources are readily available to find out when and where the most important events are. Staying on top of these networking opportunities is crucial to staying in the know and eventually becoming a key player in your field of choice.
Ultimately, starting your career—whether you’re aspiring to work for an established organization or becoming an entrepreneur—requires networking because it allows you to integrate yourself into the industry and demonstrate your value and the potential you show as a professional. Studies have shown that networking remains a priority for entrepreneurs and even ones in college. So getting yourself out there and meeting people in your industry, no matter what professional path you’re on, is as important as any other aspect of launching a career or business venture out of college.
— Article by Sean Kelly, an analyst researching the latest industry trends for College Recruiter