Most successful business owners today know that networking is one of the most important components of building their brand within the market. Networking has long been considered a successful part of building any successful career, and it is never too early to start building your network of close contacts.
Starting to build your network in college is a great way to hit the ground running after graduation with a strong foundation of connections that you can use later on in your career. Maybe some of your connections won’t come into use right away, but you never know when you will need to use one of the connections you made early on in college. With this in mind, there are a few different ways that you can start networking while you are a student.
Build Your Reputation First
Work on building a strong reputation so you have a card to play as you start forming connections. Join professional clubs at school or build your portfolio of work so that you have something to show people and something to discuss. It will be much easier to reach out to professionals in your field if you are the Vice President of the Accounting Club than if you are just a student who is taking finance classes. Building your reputation on campus and in your program at school is the foundation for building your reputation in your field.
Find Internships with Local Businesses
One of the most rewarding things you can do during college is to find an internship. This is a great way to get some hands-on experience, college credit and even get paid for the work you do at a larger, more established company. Your school will likely be able to help you find an internship with a local business and will likely have a number of resources for you to use during your search. Most schools will already reach out to the businesses and have a connection, making it easier for you to get your foot in the door during the application process. While you are at your internship, you will have the opportunity to learn from established professionals and form relationships with seasoned professionals in your field.
Don’t Be Afraid to Work For Free
While working for free may not seem glamorous, it is a great way to get your foot in the door at a larger company that may not normally hire a college student. There are so many companies that are willing to hire college students to do free work and it’s a great way to form connections, no matter what field you’re in. Perhaps you want to be a professional photographer; consider reaching out to local established professionals to see if they need an assistant to carry their bag on shoots or help them develop film. Let them know you will do it for free just to have the experience. True professionals will value your drive and ambition and will likely be excited about some free help.
Consider Your Friends’ Parents
It can be great to try to build a network of college peers while you are in college; however, these individuals are typically friends not real network connections. Instead, consider forming connections with your friends’ parents. These individuals have years of experience, and if you have a connection to their children, chances are they will be more than willing to share their experience with you, and some of their contacts. It can be awkward to ask people for guidance, but everyone needs help from time to time and these individuals can be a great resource that many people overlook.
Keep these approaches in mind as you make your way through college. College is a time to learn, but it is also a time to prepare yourself for your future career, and there is no better way to prepare yourself for financial success than creating a strong network of connections for your future.