About ten minutes after your freshman year officially begins, you are going to hear about networking. Alright so ten minutes is a little bit of an exaggeration, but trust me, you are going to hear the words networking, LinkedIn, and internships more than parties, alcohol, and turn-up at some point in your college career. You are going to repeatedly hear that your future will depend on who you know, not what you know.
Photo via Largest Mixer
There is truth in this statement, but I’ve been noticing that my college peers are acting on this statement entirely wrong. Showing up at networking events with students in your major, career recruiting events, and others only to have awkward small talk, schmooze a bit, compliment the sh*t out of people, and then leave might be a little effective. Like, very little. A tiny bit effective. You’ll have names to add on LinkedIn and maybe they will contact you sometime in the future when you’re looking for a job or an internship.
But if you really want to make use out of this college buzz word, “networking,” you need to realize networking is actually just a fancy way of saying “making friends who have the same professional interests as you.” Meeting people who are recruiting for careers is important, but consider networking with people who are in college or recently graduated. Find people who are working towards their dream career just like you are. It can be enlightening to talk to people who are equally excited about the same things as you.
After the inevitable small talk about where you’re both from, how freaking cold it’s already getting, or whatever, you’re supposed to merge into talking about goals, passions, and project ideas. Talk about whatever you’ve been doing recently. For some of you, that might be something you learned in class. For others, it’s the latest thing you did at your internship or an idea for a start-up you have. If you don’t have anything you’ve done yet, that’s totally FINE. That’s why we’re in college. Talk about what you want to do one day.
Don’t forget to ask them about what they’re currently doing or want to do in the near future. Maybe you guys can work together towards the same goal or keep an eye out for opportunities for each other. Networking is not about clawing your way to the top for your own success. It’s about collaborating and working as a team.
Networking can also mean talking to people who don’t have anything to do with your career goals as well. It’s important to meet people who are related to your field who have skills you don’t have. For instance, so you have this awesome idea for the next billion-dollar app or social media site. You’re social, outgoing, and a PR genius. Good luck without someone who knows how to code. Trying to become a the next Steven Spielberg? You’re going to need to befriend some actors and actresses you work well with. The list goes on and on. Every business, industry, or simple independent project is going to need people with different skill sets. Every successful team has people with all different strengths.
Lastly, what makes networking more like friend-making is being able to find people who are passionate about similar things as you. You have your friends who you can watch hours of mind-numbing TV with or vent about your love, or lack-of-love, life. Then you have your friends who are equally passionate about finding the cure to cancer, becoming a world traveler, or advocating for a specific cause. Whatever it is your passionate about, it is
important crucial to find people who are as psyched up as you.
As for my final tips on careers and futures, none of these networking tips are even possible until you find something you’re passionate about. You will naturally have better and more creative ideas about things you care about rather than something mundane which you are only doing because reasons one, two, and three. It isn’t even about whether you have ‘decided’ on a major or not. It’s about finding things you are excited about and turning it into a career.
How will you network?
Photo via GIJobs