Today’s post is by campus correspondent Juliana Zipay, a senior at the University of Pittsburgh. Find out how you can become a campus correspondent, too!
Everyone has seen those movies or television shows where a character has to go to what’s called a “networking mixer,” where employees of different organizations pass out their business cards to help enhance their social circle — usually for the narrative.
For the most part, it is kind of awkward and conversation is forced, but, in the end, it gets the job done and, if looked at realistically, those people have gained new contacts that could help them with future endeavors.
But as a college student who isn’t about to pass out business cards to all the new people who live on your dorm floor, you may wonder how you can become a master networker before having to conquer the real world post-graduation.
You’re Better at Networking Than You Think
If you feel that you have zero networking skills, think again: Wikipedia defines a social network as a “social structure made up of individuals … which are connected by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as friendship, kinship, common interest … knowledge, or prestige.”
That is, friends, family and classmates are all unofficially in your network. Without any excessive effort on your part, you already have a network of people that you can use to your advantage in a variety of ways. But how do you go even further?
How to Expand Your Network
Your university and classes are a great starting point. Networks are great things to have for students who are looking to get part-time work, internships, or full-time work post-graduation.
Classes within your major are chock full of students and professors who are as passionate about the field as you are, and they often hear about different opportunities than you do. But you have to be vocal.
Be Vocal About What You Want
By making your interests and goals public, people will often let you know of opportunities they’ve heard of because they remembered it would interest you. I once had a professor announce an internship possibility to the entire class, but only after class did he tell me privately that he did so because he knew I would be the most interested in it due to the content of the internship versus the class.
Contacts at the jobs and activities you partake in can also expand your networking horizons greatly. Some of my closest friends on campus are my coworkers. The more your coworkers know about you, the more they can help you than just within your job.
A friend of mine who used to be the assistant manager at my first campus job at a language media computer lab notified me of an internship possibility in the field of e-marketing (an internship that I still have now) over a year after he had stopped working at the computer lab.
Brought together by our mutual interest in social media, film, and general nerdiness, my friend informed me about an opportunity that had nothing to do with the original reason as to how we met. That’s networking.
Why Social Networking Sites Work
Social networking websites are possibly the greatest networking tools available today, and I could go on and on about them. These websites can help anyone connect with people of similar interests and backgrounds across the globe.
After my study abroad, where I met some of the greatest people I will ever meet in my life, I was able to connect with them via Facebook to maintain contact with them, even though many of them live across the country. Via Twitter, I was connected to the ULS account, became informed of what their goals are and, voilà, I am now writing for their fantastic blog.
You’re Good at It!
Even if you think that you are not good at networking, you probably are. In their own way, everyone is. I am a self-proclaimed master networker, and it isn’t until I describe all of the opportunities I have found that people realize that I actually am—and sometimes I am even inquired of to help others.
The more willing you are to put yourself out there and express your own interests with your peers, the more opportunities you will have in your life. It’s definitely more of a quality over quantity perspective. Plus, it never hurts to be a little social, right?
About Juliana Zipay: Julia is a current senior at the University of Pittsburgh who will be graduating in May 2011 with a BA in Communication and minors in Theatre Arts and Film Studies as well as a certificate in Children’s Literature. She plans to attend graduate school to work toward a Master of Library and Information Sciences degree. Her interests include, but are definitely not limited to, social networking, coffee, traveling, learning, and sleeping (whenever she can).