I’m sure all of us have been told that networking is super important and one of the most crucial aspects of finding a job. However, as a psychology major, I always thought networking was only needed for students studying business, marketing, or management. I wanted to go to graduate school and get my PhD in psychology, why did I need to reach out to people? What I failed to understand was that networking is about so much more than getting a job in the future, it also gives you access to knowledge from people who already have been through what you’re going through, to insider tips, career advice, and so much more.
Here are some tips I’ve found helpful while building a network in college.
Visit the Career Connection Center. This might seem obvious, but we often forget the career advisors themselves have a plethora of connections they can give us access to. The Career Connections Center isn’t just a place to go to get help for your resume or cover letter and look for internships. You can also ask your advisor to help you connect to more people. I remember an instance where I was talking to an advisor and telling them about a non-profit I was exploring at an upcoming career fair. Not only did they know who I was talking about, but they already had a professional connection with them and used it to help introduce me into their network.
Connect with your professors. Your professors are some of the most knowledgeable people in their field. If they’ve inspired you in some way and you want to talk to them about it, email them or visit during office hours to ask about their work and in turn talk about your own interests. If you’re looking for opportunities or information on a certain topic, ask your professors who else you should consider talking to. If you show an interest and make a good impression, they might be willing to connect you to someone in their network.
Connect to alumni through ClarkCONNECT or LinkedIn. Alumni are always up for helping a fellow Clarkie, and what better way to do so than help them with their career? Use the search filters on ClarkCONNECT and LinkedIn to look up people in your field, then message them to see if they’re available for a brief informational interview to talk about their work. Make sure to keep your LinkedIn and ClarkCONNECT profile up-to-date so alumni you’re reaching out to can learn as much as possible about you and all the things you have in common.
Improve your active listening skills. This skill is so crucial. In networking, we know the way we talk and present ourselves is important. Part of this is showing that we’re good listeners who are interested in building real connections. For you, and for the alumni you’re reaching out to, networking shouldn’t feel like you’re just there to ask for a job. Instead, it should be an opportunity to learn more about the person you’re talking to and the role they play in the field you want to go into. Show them you’re interested in what they’re talking about by showing that you’re listening, providing thoughtful feedback, and responding appropriately.