Networking as a Student
Networking usually means business networking, or the practice of making contact with individuals and organisations which could compliment your business activities. For students networking often means creating contacts who might be able to help them find a job or launch a business once you complete your education. Your image, where you network and how you follow up with new contacts can all determine the success or failure of your networking attempts.
Networking and Your ImageNetworking face to face requires that you present a polished image to those with whom you hope to make a lasting impression. This means clean, neat clothing appropriate for the activity, well maintained hair and nails and a general show of good personal hygiene. Your image is more than just how you look, however, so be careful about what you say and how you say it. Proper grammar, vocabulary appropriate for the audience and open, non-aggressive body language are all part of an impressive image. Courteous greetings and the ability to make small talk should also help you in social situations. Remember too that alcohol can affect what you think is appropriate and therefore how you act, so even if you are of legal age to indulge it is best to limit your intake while networking.
Where to Network as a StudentIf your schedule mainly consists of lectures, studying, working and a little socialising with friends then you may feel at a loss as to how and where you can network as a student. Thankfully there are many places you can easily start your quest. Your school or university no doubt offers a variety of events you could take advantage of, and the same with your local community.
- Networking events hosted by your school counselling office or career services department.
- Events and talks hosted by clubs and organisations.
- Art shows and performances associated with your school or university.
- Events hosted by academic departments (talks, readings, etc).
- Discussing future hopes and plans with teachers, professors and mentors.
- Joining community groups dedicated to a cause or subject about which you are passionate.
- Contributing to online forums or loops dedicated to a particular subject, business or industry.
- Volunteering with charities or organisations dedicated to particular causes.
Following Up with New ContactsFor some students it is much easier to meet and socialise with a new contact just once than it is to follow up with him or her and create an on-going business relationship. Before you leave an event make sure you have your new contact’s email address or telephone number, often available on a business card. Once you return home make a quick note to help you remember the person, as well as why you think (s)he would be a valuable contact. No later than the next day, email or call him or her to say how nice it was to meet and to ask a question pertaining to your discussion, business or industry. By creating a continuous dialogue with your new contact you can help the relationship develop in the future. Be sure to decipher the responses you receive, however, so that you don’t become an annoyance to someone clearly not interested in fully communicating with you.
Networking is a skill that requires practice, but students usually have myriad events available for them to make new connections. Looking after your image, finding the best events for networking and knowing how to follow up with new contacts should all help you better network as a student.