Start networking while you are in college because the earlier you can start making connections the more these relationships can grow over time. Strong relationships are built with lots of trust and this takes time, so the sooner you start the better. You do not want to start your network building once you graduate. Get the seeds planted early. College is also a great time to network because there is a lot of exposure to companies coming onto campus as well as your professors. The following are 7 easy ways to start building your network.
- LinkedIn – This is the social media platform of business. It is must for college students to build a strong LinkedIn profile. Your LinkedIn shows your accomplishments, skill sets, and puts a face to your name. It is essentially your virtual resume. I would use your LinkedIn profile to connect with other students, professors, and guest speakers that visit your classes. If you get along with the classmates you completed a project with reach out to them and send a connection request to them. If you did well in a class, send a connection request out to your professor. Did a guest lecturer really inspire you, send them a connection request and let them know you really enjoyed their presentation. You never know what types of opportunities your classmates, professors, and guest speakers know about. Reaching out also shows initiative and that you care.
- Clubs/Greek Life – Joining a club is tried and true way of networking, especially if it is a club centered around your career choice. Being around people with the same career goals helps re-establish your own career goals and put you in the right mind set. These specific clubs can be full of great knowledge especially when there are senior members that have internships and interviews with companies you may be interested in. These other members also hold key knowledge that can help led to opportunities. Did you want to get a summer internship with Deloitte? Well one of the senior members may have worked there last summer and can put in a good word for you. Two clubs I specifically recommend joining are Beta Alpha Psi and Toastmasters International. Beta Alpha Psi is specific accounting fraternity and Toastmasters International is public speaking/leadership development club.
- Volunteer – Don’t underestimate the power of volunteering. Helping without expecting to be compensated shows great personality traits. It is something that does not go missed. Get involved with a local charity and actively volunteer a few hours a month. You will be surprised how many different people from around the community turn out to help. This is an easy way to get face time with people who may have connections or opportunities. One volunteer activity I highly suggest that you do as an accounting major is to find out if one of the big 4 companies does a free tax service to low income families in your community. You do not have to be an intern to be eligible for one of these volunteer roles. Remember networking can take place in the most unlikely places. You could be speaking to your next manager while scrubbing graffiti of an overpass.
- Job Fair – Go to your school’s job fair and meet with companies you are interested in working for. Bring at least 10 copies of your resume and hand them out after you get a chance to speak with representatives of that company. Let the company know that you are interested even if they are not hiring. Most likely the representatives at the campus job fair will be the ones picking the resumes for interview later. By speaking with them at the job fair you have an opportunity to make a good first impression. Remember to dress business professionally. The job fair is more of an interview than it may seem.
- College Career Services Office – Stop in to your career services office and get familiar with what they do. Meet the staff and let them know who you are and what your career goals are. They may be able to shed new light on to companies and opportunities. Most Career Service Offices will also look over your resume and give you an opinion on it. This could help ensure that your resume sticks out in a positive way.
- Alumni Events – Attend your business college’s alumni events. This is access to people that have walked the same college class path as you. Most likely these people share the same career goals as you too. This a great chance to meet these people. Alumni like to help students from their alma matter. Attend these networking events and bring a couple copies of your resume. Don’t forget to dress in appropriate attire as well. This could mean business casual or business professional. Don’t stick out in a negative way.
- Seminars – Don’t be afraid to attend professional seminars in the fields of study you are interested in. You do not have to be working in the field yet to appreciate the information being shared as well opportunities to talk with others in your industry. Attending these seminars is also something worthy of putting on your resume while you are still in college. I have heard of students putting a seminar they attended on their resume and a hiring manager selecting the resume for an interview because they attended the seminar as well. Seminars are also great talking points in interviews. Check the AICPA and IMA sites for upcoming events.
The 7 ways to network above are honestly just a short list of all the possibilities you will have to network in college. The more familiar people in your industry can get with you the better chance that it gives you some sort of “edge” over other students fighting for the same opportunities. Any student who is serious about their career goals should start building their network as soon as possible. Make sure you do not wait until you graduate to start building your network.