How to develop your network before you even graduate from college

The role of college student is tough these days. On top of the hours of study, the hefty tuition bills, and the looming responsibilities of adulthood, you have to network. This is not only for those who have graduated.

One of the leading reasons for a requirement to network is that it is undeniable that not every job is advertised beyond a company’s website. This may not be the 80 percent of myth, but it does happen. If you wish to hear of these jobs, you will have to do so through your network, something that can’t be bought, borrowed, or downloaded. It is developed by consistent action over time.

The first step is to have the right mindset. You must realize that it matters not how much experience you possess. Michelle Lederman, author of The 11 Laws of Likeability, remarked, “The hurdle most college students have is the feeling that they have nothing to offer.” She implores college students to not underestimate how much their curiosity matters to employers.

While what happen in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas, the same is not true of college. It isn’t an escape from The Real World; everything you do there will follow you into the working world. Acting like Bluto Blutarsky from Animal House might get you laughs at college, but you’ll be far down the list of people your friends will consider for job openings or business opportunities afterward. Matt Stewart, CEO of College Works Painting, offers the apt metaphor of the wake of a boat: “When a boat goes by, it leaves some ripples. You have to manage the ripples left behind and their image.” He provides the example of his college mate, No Pay Ray, who always sought to escape the tab and now calls him incessantly with business proposals he turns down because he question’s Ray’s ethics as they were more than 20 years back. And you must be careful of what you post to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever.

College is when you build solid, lifelong relationships. To maintain these, stay in touch with old friends. Your circle of friends will be wider if you make the habit of sitting in different parts of classrooms while at college, introducing yourself to the person sitting beside you. You could even get a date out of it.

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There are many great internships to be had, often open only to students. Take advantage of these. Some are provided by big name companies such as Disney, Google, and Procter & Gamble.

At college, getting involved with a student organization will expose you to people outside of your orbit, maybe even to the extent of being outside your college. Political societies often see local politicians speaking at their meetings, and politicians will greatly value volunteers for campaigns. Rising to a leadership position can get you on the radar screen of power players.

You could provide work for free. Business coach and author Charlie Hoehn made a career out of working voluntarily for key influencers. It would be bad to give up part-way through a commitment.

The parents of your friends could have experience in the field that interests you. Make sure your friends introduce you. People are generally all-too-eager to share advice of their field with enthusiastic college students.

Building a network is an investment in your future just as much as tuition fees. If you put yourself out there, you will receive dividends sooner or later.

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