Top 10 networking tips for college students

businessmen-handshake-vector-free_23-2147492038Finding the right job after college takes a good deal of networking. That is, building relationships with people in the same field as you to help you succeed in your career once you graduate. Don’t wait until you graduate to start building these connections though. Begin networking now, and you will have a far greater chance of finding the right job when you graduate.

After all, job searches are often competitive, and sometimes knowing the right person makes all the difference. In fact, a recent CareerXroads survey found that only 15 percent of jobs are filled through job boards. Most are filled by internal candidates or through referrals. In this job climate, who you know is critical.

Networking can seem intimidating at first, but once you learn the basics, it will get much easier. Here are some great ways to get started:

1. Visit the career center. Before you set out to network, visit the campus career center and ask for advice on networking. They can share tips on the most successful ways to make contacts and make an impression. Helpful hint: If you aren’t sure what to talk about when you meet someone new at a networking event, ask them an open-ended question about themselves or their work. Most people love to talk about themselves!

2. Get an internship. This is a valuable opportunity to meet new people and make an impression on them with your diligence and hard work. Plus you’ll be gaining experience that will strengthen your resume. Once you leave, be sure to stay connected with key contacts you met during your internship.

3. Connect with alumni. Contact the alumni relations office at your university and ask if they can connect you with someone in the industry you’re looking to enter. Then contact the alumnus to ask for an informational interview, letting them know that you attend their alma mater. Also, keep an eye out for alumni networking events.

4. Get out of campus and meet people in the industry. Contact the Chamber of Commerce or other professional organizations in the region where you’d like to work. Most professional organizations host events where you can meet people in the field you’d like to pursue, and some offer special rates for students. Take the opportunity to introduce yourself to people at the event, and put your newfound networking skills to use. Get the business card of people that you meet at the event, and connect with them through LinkedIn. Remember to send them a note afterwards, letting them know you enjoyed meeting them.

5. Create a LinkedIn account.

  • Fill out your online profile, including your education and any professional experience.
  • In the headline, highlight what you’re passionate about and what you’d like to do in the future.
  • For the experience section, highlight what your key strengths are, not just what your job responsibilities were. Focus on your achievements in each role.
  • Remember to include any relevant volunteer experience as well. Include any awards/honors that you’ve earned.
  • List your skills and expertise. This will help hiring managers see where you might fit in best in their organization.
  • Add a professional-looking headshot. (Tip: This should be a smiling picture of you alone, dressed in fairly professional clothing.)
  • Start out by linking with people that you know, such as professor and previous employers.
  • Identify key people in the industry–whether they’re hiring managers or influencers–who you’d like to meet. See if any of your LinkedIn contacts know them and can make an introduction.
  • Use LinkedIn’s Endorsement to ask professors and previous employers to endorse you.
  • Join LinkedIn groups in the industry you’re looking to break into. This adds credibility by showing hiring managers that you’re not just looking for a job, but are interested in what’s happening in the industry.

6. Tap into existing contacts. Consider your fellow students and their families, your neighbors, parent’s friends, as well as your friends who’ve already graduated, and what they do for work. They may be able to broaden your network and help make introductions for you.

7. Reach the right people. Many students mistakenly believe that they need to connect with HR to get in the door at an employer. Not so. HR often doesn’t know about upcoming openings. It’s better to connect with department heads, since they’ll have a better idea of their upcoming needs and hiring budget.

8. Contact faculty and staff. Seek out your favorite professors and others in your department and ask them for letters of recommendation and advice on potential employer contacts. They often have many contacts in their field of study. Be sure to send them a handwritten note afterwards to thank them for their assistance.

9. Follow your favorite companies. If there are particular employers you’re keen on working for, follow them on social media. This is a good way to keep an ear out for job openings, and to stay informed about the company if you do get an interview.

10. Be positive! Don’t talk about your frustration with finding a job, but what you aspire to do in the future.