It is never too early to start building your social network. Whether you are a senior in high school or a college graduate, the value of building meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships never diminishes. Here are a few tips for how to successfully create and maintain a network.
1. Think about the connections you already have.
Take a step back to analyze the relationships that you have already developed with friends, family, acquaintances and coworkers. You may be surprised by how many connections you already have! Reach out to those people you haven't spoken to in a while, and give them an update on how you are doing.
2. Make a LinkedIn profile.
LinkedIn is an effective online networking tool that is used by professionals all over the world. Making a profile will allow you to showcase your academic and professional accomplishments in a sort of extended resume, and will likely be viewed by your future employer. As you establish connections, you can add them to your connections list to keep your professional relationships organized. Go to the website below to set up an account: it's free!
Career centers are one of the most underutilized resources on college campuses. The purpose of a career center is to assist you with your job search and prepare you for life outside of academia; therefore, there are inevitably numerous networking opportunities available to you. Email a career counselor or walk up to the front desk to receive further information and get yourself started on your path to successful networking.
4. Go to networking events.
Though many are accompanied by a small fee, campus-sponsored networking events such as social mixers and resource panels offer invaluable opportunities to connect with alumni and other professionals in your field of interest. As an added bonus, food is often included with admission!
5. Keep in touch.
Once you have established your connections, don't forget to maintain them! No matter how busy your life gets, it is crucial to stay in touch with your social network; this could be as simple as a quick phone call or email providing updates on your progress, academic and otherwise. However, make sure the conversation isn't one-sided, and try to get updates on how they are doing as well. Reciprocity is key!
6. Talk to everyone.
You can never know where your next important connection may come from. Since you have nothing to lose, talk to people! Whether it's the person in line behind you at the supermarket or the barista at Starbucks, initiate a conversation. At the very least, you may learn something new.
Now that you know what to do, what are you waiting for? Step out from behind your computer screen (unless you're sending an email, of course) and start building those relationships!