How to Network in College [10 Tested Ways, Benefits & Tips]

21 July
7 min read
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It’s never too early to start networking.

Whether you’re set on your career path or still exploring, networking can help you gain fresh perspectives, build life-long relationships, and get better at socializing!  

And there’s no better place to start networking than college! That’s where most people make lasting friendships, discover themselves, and determine their career paths. 

But, exactly how do you network in college? 

After all, between classes, extracurricular activities, and exam stress, the mechanics of networking can get a bit daunting.

If you want to learn all about how to network in college, you’re at the right place. We cover it all in this article, including:

  • 10 Tested Ways to Successfully Network in College
  • 9 Benefits of Networking in College
  • 5 Networking Tips for Introvert College Students
  • Student Networking Events

And more! So, let’s dive right in!

10 Tested Ways to Successfully Network in College

#1. Start With the People You Know

Before anything else, start networking with the people you already know. 

That way, you can take advantage of untapped opportunities and get rid of the initial stress that comes with networking - especially if you haven’t done it before. 

So, share your career aspirations and plans with your friends, family, and even the family of friends if it’s possible; they might give you valuable advice or know someone who knows someone and make an introduction.

#2. Take Advantage of Your School’s Career Office 

Every college has a career office.

In a nutshell, career offices give students career advice, help them learn how to make a resume and write a cover letter, prepare for interviews, find internships, and network. 

When it comes to networking, your college’s career office is your best chance to find networking events and connect with professors and alumni, who can help you find great job opportunities in the long run. 

#3. Start Using LinkedIn and Other Networking Platforms

LinkedIn has more than 830 million members worldwide, which makes it the largest professional network in the world. As such, the sooner you start using it, the better you’ll be able to network. 

Now, to successfully network on LinkedIn, start by optimizing your profile. Include your skills, any personal project you’ve completed, your college and majors, and anything else related to your future career. 

Once you’ve done that, you can start gathering connections from people you already know. LinkedIn lets you do this by matching your phone contacts with their LinkedIn profiles and, after sending them a request to connect, taking advantage of the People You May Know feature.

Additionally, you can connect with others in your field, be they students or professionals, or join LinkedIn groups. 

And, if LinkedIn isn’t really your thing, there are many other equally excellent LinkedIn alternatives to networking that you can try out. 

#4. Ask Your Professors

Professors don’t exist with the sole purpose of teaching you stuff. Most of them are able to offer valuable insight on job hunting and resources, industry connections, and possible career paths.

As such, the best professors will become your mentors and manage to inspire you long after you’ve graduated college.

In turn, you should take advantage of your daily contact with your professors while you’re in college and discuss your career goals with them. In addition to offering you advice based on their own experience, they’ll be able to tell you which networking events to attend and what extra steps to take for your networking efforts to give results. 

#5. Join Alumni Associations

One of the most effective ways to network in college is to join alumni associations. 

The best thing about alumni associations is that you don’t have to be an actual alumn to become a member - as long as you eventually graduate. The benefits, on the other hand, are huge.

For starters, alumni associations can help you network professionally with people who have graduated in the same major as you and are already working in the industry. In turn, they might eventually refer you to their employers or offer you valuable industry advice. 

Not to mention, you’ll meet and make friends with like-minded people who’ll be available to lend a helping hand whenever you need it throughout your career.  

#6. Get in Touch with People You Admire

If you ever got super inspired by a guest lecturer or a motivational speaker at your university, don’t hesitate to get in touch with them. 

Alternatively, you can also reach out to people who’ve inspired you to get into your major in the first place, or academics and authors you’ve admired since you were a kid. Using a networking email, you can introduce yourself to those people, mention what it that you admire about them and their work, and ask whether it’s possible to pick their brains.

And, if you’re feeling nervous about this, keep in mind that seasoned professionals usually love talking about their careers, especially with those that are just starting out and look up to them. After you’ve met them personally, you can even ask them to mentor you - that can come with a bunch of benefits, including some top-tier career advice!

#7. Attend Networking Events

What better way to network in college than going straight at the source and attending a bunch of networking events? 

The upside here is that most college students can’t be bothered to attend networking events, probably because they assume they’ll have their whole life ahead of them to do that. 

As such, you can get ahead of the curve and make some beneficial networking relations way before the rest of your class. What’s more important, every individual attending a networking event is there for the same reasons - kickstart their career, receive or offer advice, or make valuable professional contacts - so you won’t have to beat around the bush to get what you went there for. 

#8. Use Volunteering or Internships

Volunteering or getting an internship that matches your career interests is another great way to network in college.

With internships, on top of making business connections and getting some first-hand practical experience, you can also get a job offer after you graduate.

Similarly, volunteering for a cause that you’re passionate about will help you network with like-minded people who can eventually help your career or offer you fresh perspectives. If nothing else, employers love volunteering experience on your resume and the experience might be a boost to your CV.

#9. Have a Business Card Ready

Having a business card is a great way to look professional and let people easily get in touch with you. 

Now, since you’re still in college, there’s no need to overdo it with your business card. Your name, professional email address (e.g. firstname.lastname@gmail.com as opposed to barbiegirl95@yahoo.com or anything else you might have used as a teen), and phone number should be enough for a college student’s business card. 

Trust us, having a business card to share during networking events or alumni meetings can make a huge difference in how effective your networking is. 

#10. Follow Up 

After you’ve met someone personally or reached out to them online, it’s important to follow up so that you don’t lose that initial “spark.” 

The best way to do it is to wait a couple of days - not too long, or else they might forget you - and then send them an email reminding them who you are and thanking them for their time and/or valuable advice. 

A timely and relevant follow-up email can make a world of difference about how you’re perceived and how much your networking contacts will be available to help you in the long run.  

7 Benefits of Networking in College

As a student, you have so many different responsibilities: extracurricular activities, classes, study, and more.

With so on your plate, you might be unsure if you can even dedicate that extra time to networking.

These seven benefits of networking in college, however, are going to convince you otherwise: 

  1. You can get ahead in your career. Why look for a job when you graduate from college when you can have one already lined up for you?
  2. You can build your confidence. Networking among professionals, mentors, and other like-minded people can help you believe more in your knowledge and abilities. 
  3. You can gain fresh perspectives. Nothing like communicating with people to gain a fresh view of your career and goals.
  4. You can get access to job opportunities. 85% of jobs are secured via networking. You do the math. 
  5. You can be in the loop for industry developments. You’ll learn more practical information from professionals in the field than from reading content on the internet. 
  6. You can get better at socializing. You’ll learn how to better connect with professionals in your field, something that’s going to be very valuable for your career. 
  7. You can learn how to leave your comfort zone. We know that networking doesn’t come easy to everyone; for some, it’s quite a daunting task. In such cases, learning how to do it will help you leave your comfort zone, something that is useful both for your personal and professional life.

For more on networking benefits, check out our article about why networking is important.

5 Networking Tips for Introvert College Students

Introverted college students might have a harder time networking in college than extroverts. For instance, they might not know exactly how to start a conversation or feel out of place at networking events. 

Here are our top 5 networking tips for introvert college students to help you get rid of the anxiety: 

  1. Prepare icebreakers. Icebreakers are a way to warm up to a conversation and get rid of the initial awkwardness between strangers. Anything from asking someone what their favorite color is to whether they enjoy classical music can be an icebreaker.
  2. Practice active listening. If you’re not great at talking, then you can practice the other half of a successful conversation - listening! After all, who doesn’t love a good listener?
  3. Smile. This is a great networking tip for everyone, but especially so for introverted college students. Just by smiling you can show that you’re open to a conversation and warm up to those around you.
  4. Bring a friend. Bringing a friend along at networking events can help introverted students feel more comfortable. Not to mention, your friend can actually motivate you to strike up a conversation with someone important in the room.
  5. Go for quality over quantity. Sometimes, networking with lots of people is not as important as networking with the right people. So, as an introvert who feels drained after spending too much time socializing,

4 Networking Resources for College Students

If you’re still a bit anxious about networking in college, here are some additional resources to get you started: 

  1. Networking email subject lines. These 65+ networking email subject lines will guarantee that your networking email gets a great response!
  2. Online networking. Polish your virtual networking techniques and start building professional relations without leaving your house.
  3. Questions to ask when networking. Choose among 75+ questions to ask at networking events to break the ice.
  4. Networking skills. If you want to get better at networking, we’d recommend developing these 11+ skills.

Key Takeaways 

And that’s a wrap. You now have all the necessary resources to succeed at networking in college!

Before you go, here are the main points we covered in this article: 

  • Some of the best ways to network in college are to start with the people you know, attend networking events, connect with your professors, and use volunteering or internships.
  • Getting better at socializing, gaining fresh perspectives, getting access to more job opportunities, and being in the loop for industry developments are some of the top benefits of networking in college.
  • If you’re an introvert, the best ways to network in college are to go prepared with some icebreakers, to bring a friend, smile, and opt for making few, but beneficial, connections.