I have spoken on college campuses for many years now. The thought of networking was a foreign concept to students in the past. Oh, and I am not talking about being on Facebook. That is socializing, not really networking in a business sense.
I think when students thought of networking they thought “UGH, I rather stick a fork in my eye!”
I think attitudes are changing now because students see the impact of the recession in their households and know they need a lot of tools to successfully enter the job market.
So here are some of my networking tips for college students who hate to network.
First, hope is not a plan. When my kids were growing up I used to have a saying on my fridge. “Hope is Not a Plan.” I hope I get into that class, I hope I pass, I hope I graduate etc. You need a plan of action to achieve your academic goals and it is the same with networking. You should set a strategy for what you want to achieve and who you need to meet to get you there.
You need to intensively focus your activities on getting a job. That’s key today. You need to use all of the tools available to you. You don’t have much of a choice. That means attending events where there are lots of adults versus student networking groups. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I think being involved with PRSA student chapters is great but the jobs and internships are at the mainstream PRSA and IABC Chapters.
It is pretty basic but you need business cards. No ifs, ands, or buts. If you have any design or creative courses at your school, connect with those people and have them design your cards so they are unique and distinctive. Believe me gents, handing out business cards will make you look like much less of a… (I will let you fill in the blanks).
Register your own domain name by buying your name. You may move a lot but your personal URL will be your permanent address. It will help your SEO and the background checks that will be done in the future, will be yours forever. Find your favorite geek to build you a one page landing page. You will keep building it for the rest of your life and that’s what websites will become in the future.
Then, hit your parents up for a budget to attend networking events. The majority of events have student rates. I think your parents will be more receptive to funding you attending networking events than going to Vegas for the weekend.
You need to master Linkedin. You have no choice because that is what HR departments use. Use a business type photo on your profile. I can guarantee that you will look very impressive if you have a complete profile with lots of connections and recommendations. Get recommendations from your Profs, part time jobs, volunteer connections etc. Post updates daily, not about your favorite taco but about the networking events you are going to attend.
Another tip is don’t think of your parents friends as old people. Look at them as data bases, Linkedin with them. If they are in a field you are interested in, ask for a courtesy interview. Trust me, they will be eager to help. Most parents are instilled with secret wiring code that says you must help your friends and peers children. It is an unwritten rule. Leverage it.
Create the world you want to live in the future by forming it with your networking activity today. If you want to connect with people with lots of social currency then volunteer and attend fund raising events which are excellent networking events. A lot of people prior to the recession used to live in a world of “this is what I got.” We saw a lot of that in the last decade. It didn’t last and neither did its values. These are the times to live in a world of “this is how I can help.”
Let it define your networking strategy.
Remember it is up to you to reinvent the world to your vision and create the promise of change that all ages embrace.
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Watch a video on Why Young People Shouldn’t Try to Find a Job.