Networking With a Purpose: The College Edition

By Ryan Tin Loy posted 12-17-2019 07:40


In today’s workplace you will often hear the words “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Normally these words would be applicable to people from small, tight knit communities or individuals seeking to work in industries where name or college recognition holds weight. As our communities grow closer due to globalization and the spread of social media, that old adage is quickly becoming obsolete. 

Social media has added a new dynamic to the concept of networking, but the purpose still remains the same and that is to build quality relationships. While college students, particularly Millennials and Gen Z are able to operate the new tools of the trade, many are still hesitant when it comes to face-to-face interaction. The demographics of the modern work force may be shifting with younger more diverse workers entering, but those in leadership may lack the technical skills, particularly in social media operations, and prefer physical interaction. As a college student what are some strategies to help to bridge these gaps? 

Think local. A great way to start networking is by connecting with the programs and resources on campus. Many student clubs and organizations offer a wealth of information, training, and sense of belonging. It is a great way to get involved with a community cause while learning to connect and collaborate with others. 

Think small. Many college campuses host speed networking sessions. These types of events operate within smaller intimate settings. They allow students to practice their networking while still gaining quality contacts in the community all in a judgment-free environment. 

Think long term. College is often just a stop in this long journey called life. It can be easy to view human interaction as lacking long -term impact. Students, however, should view networking as a potential long-term commitment. With constantly changing social, economic, and political conditions, maintaining contacts is imperative to employment success. 

Think diversity. We live in a world that is rapidly changing due to new technologies. Diverse people bring diverse ideas to the forefront. College students should be ready to move fluidly between the technical and physical tools of networking. Being able to master the many resources available enables a generation that not only embraces diversity, but is also able to leverage it toward positive results. 

Networking is possible for anyone, regardless of age or academic level. Networking is not just about creating and building relationships but also maintaining those relationships.

Note: A student-directed version of this article is available to NACE college members for use on their websites.