Establishing, developing and maintaining positive connections with others is an integral part of the college experience. Some students interpret this to mean they should have a very active social life. While extensive socializing is certainly an important part of many students’ college experiences, the types of relationships that will prove most valuable to students are less about parties and more about professions.
College is the perfect time for students to start building their professional network. Students should work to build and uphold positive working relationships with all people they meet within their future career field, such as professors in their major, internship supervisors, employers or administrators. Every contact is important, because any one could lead to a job in the future. It’s never too early to start networking to plan ahead for career opportunities, and students can set up a personalized networking timetable to guide their efforts. Students should actively think about networking and work on establishing professional relationships beginning in their freshman year and continuing to graduation, when their networking pays off with many appealing job prospects.
One ideal way for students to establish meaningful professional relationships and to network is through active involvement in their school’s chapter of a student professional organization geared toward their potential career field. For instance, a future public relations specialist may want to join their school’s PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America) organization. Involvement in these organizations not only helps students stand out to potential employers, but it allows students to meet and network with many professionals already in the industry they want to break into. This includes program coordinators, guest speakers and professionals the students meet during activities and workshops associated with the organization.
Students should also build relationships and network with their classmates, particularly in their major classes because these students might be other students’ future colleagues or bosses, or could help them find a job.
Joining professionally-geared social networking sites such as LinkedIn can help students compile and connect with their contacts. Just as students build a portfolio of classes and professional work experiences to learn skills in their career field, they should build a portfolio of professionals and peers to prepare them for their future careers.