As an introvert, networking can be a daunting activity. Through the years and after a lot of trial and error, I have grown more comfortable networking. Recently I decided networking, like yoga, is a practice. For instance, I find networking (or yoga) easier some days, in some settings, with some groups people than others. Sometimes everything goes right when networking (or when doing yoga) and things flow and it feels great. Sometimes every other introductory handshake (or yoga pose) feels awkward and it seems a bit off center. The more one practices any activity the more confident and better one gets. With continued and consistent practice the networking experience can improve and comfort level can increase.
Everyone can practice networking at any point in life or a career, but I especially encourage college students to “start practicing” early and to network often in the university setting. At universities, it is incredibly easy to meet new people. Opportunities to practice networking are around every corner, in every class, and on every bulletin board. College networking isn’t a blizzard of business cards; it is often just meeting new people for the sake of meeting new people.
Here are some of the things I did to network in college (and a few I wished I had done):
Change your dorm each school year and meet as many people as you can in your dorm.
Become a ambassador for your favorite club or volunteer organization. Representing your group at an orientation session or an activities fair will allow you to meet more people.
Don’t rely on email alone to communicate with your professor, advisor or dean. Make an office hours appointment and have a face to face conversation. Be open to conversation and constructive criticism.
Take a job in town. This will get you off campus (but still in your college town) and in front of a completely different group of people for a few hours. College towns are always abuzz with alumni activities, future internship prospects and future employment opportunities.
One last note on networking – social networking to be exact. When I was in college, the social networking beast was still in its gestation stage. Now, social networking is part of our daily lives. Social networking can be a wonderful concept if used wisely and positively. My advice on this subject to college students: pretend you already have your dream job and share on social sites accordingly. Share carefully on social networks; start establishing yourself as a new expert in your dream industry/field now AND avoid embarrassment later. Decide what to share and what NOT to share wisely.
How did you practice networking in the university setting?
How do you feel about your current networking practice?
Do you have a piece of advice about networking that you would like to share?
I’d love to hear your thoughts so feel free to comment!