Importance of  Networking

05/10/23 | 7 MIN READ

What Is Networking?

Networking is meeting new people who you share a connection with such as a profession, industry, or interest. Networking, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is developing connections and personal contacts that can take place anywhere. These events can be specifically for networking, a business casual meeting, a formal get-together, or a chance meeting over coffee. Sometimes, these individuals are strangers, or sometimes you share an intermediate connection or several, as you find there is a link between your networks. It may sound like you are just casually meeting someone new, however, the purpose of a network is drastically different. Networking aims for professionals to connect and help each other grow in their careers. Through networking, you can be helping a coworker, a friend, or supporting your career path. 

Why Should You Conduct Networking?

According to a recent research study announced by Consumer News and Business Channel (CNBC), 70% of all jobs are not published publicly and 80% of jobs are filled through personal and professional contacts. This statistic shows us how beneficial and essential networking becomes in career success. The formula behind this statistic is simple: creating relationships through networking builds trust and that is the fundamental building block for hiring someone. When hiring, recruiters have hundreds to thousands of applicants. Choosing one person can be daunting, but choosing somebody they know and have interacted with before is an easier and safer decision compared to selecting someone they’ve never met or only met through a brief interview. 

Knowing you are more likely to be hired when the hiring manager trusts you, should motivate you to want to begin building that trust now. For a college student, nurturing these relationships now can be so profitable long term. By interacting with a large network, you are inviting more opportunities. As a college student, you are right in the middle of a college friend who could own a big company in ten years, or be the next well-known professor, and a mentor with years of experience and a well-established name. This environment makes college the perfect place to build your network, and you never know when the hiring recruiter might be your friend. Overall, networking will get you acquainted with those in your industry so that they can become your client, partner, or employer someday.

face to face networking event

🔬 Learn About: The Importance of Networking

Types of Networking in College

Face-to-Face vs. Remote

To grow your network in college, start by taking advantage of the different opportunities that you can access and attend in-person networking events. On a college campus, these events are not hard to find because of the numerous workshops and opportunities that are available for enhancing your career and professional development. As a college student, you will find that most events you attend will all be possible moments for you to add someone to your network. These networking events can either be a casual or formal setting, there are many places that you will be able to start. Some networking events include: 

  • Industry Nights
  • Career Fair
  • Conferences
  • Alumni Meet and Greet
  • Seminars
  • Office Hours

In comparison, you can also do networking remotely through online platforms. Virtual-based networking is also a great way to connect with people. When remote networking either you can connect with the individual yourself, or if you notice you two have a mutual connection, you can ask the mutual connection to introduce you. A variety of platforms offer remote networking, those platforms include:

  • LinkedIn
  • Email
  • Indeed
  • Handshake

All these places and more are open occasions for starting up a lasting partnership, which can be very helpful after college. At the core, networking is the C’s: “cultivating connection, communication, and collaboration.” 

Benefits of Networking

When networking, one builds a professional circle that can expand to include other small circles. It's often said that "never underestimate the power of your network," and this rings true as our networks are incredibly valuable resources in today's world. There is so much you can gain and that you can provide through connections. Whether it be a future job for you or someone else or gaining experiences, networks exist for building stronger social dynamics. These social dynamics will make your college career because they provide a backbone for the rest of your career. As one MBA graduate noted, obtaining a college degree also means gaining access to a vast network of peers and professionals. The benefits of networking are many, including improved social well-being, increased innovation, strengthened connections with other professionals, and enhanced professional interactions. 

Social Well-Being 

Regarding social well-being, research explains networking leads to the “six degrees of separation.” The “six degrees of separation” explains the idea that all people are six or fewer social connections away from one another. These networking chains in college are especially helpful because they connect individuals in society and lead to lasting relationships. These relationships are sometimes the main connection you need in making huge strides in your career. A look into the power of networking and social connection comes from my own funny story. I did my undergraduate career at UC Berkeley where I had a mentor who helped me with my graduate school application for UC Irvine. This mentor did his undergraduate career at UC Davis. Fast forward, I was having dinner with my sister and her research colleague, as we are all graduate students at UC Irvine. My sister's research colleague attended UC Davis, and although we never met before, she knew my mentor from UC Berkeley. The idea of a “friend of a friend,” is a circle that links us to one another. Ultimately taking the time to build your college network is your investment in the future of academics for your respective field. 

Innovation

Networking propels academics and career fields because individuals share ideas. When two or more people participate in a conversation, share an event, or post their research and accomplishments, this communication contributes to a giant hat of ideas that you can pull out and use. To offer a better perspective on how networking has contributed to innovation, I conducted informational interviews to understand why my network thinks communication is important. Sharing some of these responses, I heard “effective communication is a survival skill,” “If you are a good talker, it is easier to get a job,” and “Have you ever read the book, We need to Talk, I can give you my copy.” All these responses show that as college students, building your network offers the opportunity to build upon what we know. I used others' ideas and perspectives to capture why your college networking experience is necessary.

Now you will take this knowledge, store it, and convert it into tangible information. Sharing ideas in your network thus becomes a driving force in your field because hearing others' ideas offers a unique perspective that inspires our ideas. These perspectives enhance how we see the world at large and how we can innovate. 

🔬Find Out: The Importance of Informational Interviews

Diverse Network

In networking, we can only introduce more perspectives if we broaden our network. Being on a college campus is the best way to build a diverse background because others know you are the future generation of professionals. As often as we may undermine this truth, those before us want to show us how to lead. Being susceptible to a broader network means you can begin building a large network with individuals from different backgrounds, different fields of study, and at different points in their careers. Networking with various types of positions, especially those that are higher-up in their careers, can introduce you to wiser, more experienced professionals.

The opportunity to learn from their acquired wisdom and career advice will lead to your future growth for two reasons. First, these connections open up the possibility for mentorship opportunities and career development. Professional networking with someone in your field who you admire can lead to your mentor. Since many people in their careers had mentors who guided them, they are usually happy to return the favor. From your mentors, you can then develop a new skill or be empowered to pursue the next step in your career. For instance, a former professor shared that we were part of the same academic genealogy, otherwise known as the academic family tree. This professor noticed we shared a former laboratory principal investigator (PI), so she reached out to help me get to the next step in my academic journey.  

Secondly, knowing people from various professional levels can expose you to a broader selection of job opportunities. By developing a relationship with someone, you may be able to leverage their connections for your next job. All it takes is looking for the next open opportunity and asking for a referral to take the first step forward in advancing your career. 

🔬 Learn: How to Find a Mentor

students with mentor

Boosted Interactions

Advancing your career through networking inherently boosts your professional development skills. In college, there are plenty of opportunities to practice your networking skills through networking industry nights, with your professors, or other students in your class. Be bold and initiate interaction among your peers. Developing new relationships with other professionals helps you foster your professional capabilities because it requires initiative.

The more you facilitate these interactions, the easier networking becomes because you are developing social skills. Furthermore, forming multiple relationships can lead to business relations, which strengthen society over time as cross-collaboration grows and is encouraged. For college students, these relationships mean everything and can help in the future if you or the other party need help. 

Networking Tips

When you know you are going to attend a networking event, always prepare yourself. You want to prepare your elevator speech, bring a pen (you might need it), business cards, a plan on how you will maximize your meetings, and another co-worker, friend, or colleague. When you begin making your way through each potential connection, introduce yourself with your elevator pitch. Allow them to introduce themselves and start engaging in the conversation. You might ask questions or ask for advice, but you really cannot go wrong with inviting conversation. Keep in mind, however, that each discussion should last no longer than 30 minutes, you want to leave feeling like you need to connect again.

Before moving to your next connection, try asking for a business card, LinkedIn connection, email, or another form of contact information. This tip is an important part of forming a connection because you want to keep in contact. As the saying goes, “it is better to receive a business card than to give one.” As for the pen and the plan, these are intended to take jotted notes about who you spoke to and what you spoke about. These notes are meant to help you remember who you met and information about the conversation. When you reach out to them virtually, start by using these notes to remind them of the conversation you had and then pick back up where you left off.

🔬Learn About: The Value of a LinkedIn Profile

maintaining peer connections

Keep the Connection 

After welcoming a new connection, you want to keep these newly formed relations. LinkedIn offers many avenues that you can use, including keeping your connections up to date with your career by posting your accomplishments and milestones. If you do not have LinkedIn, you can personalize this relationship and send emails to those who you want to keep informed about your career progress.

No matter which way you choose to stay in touch, sending your connections up-to-date messages about your career and checking in on them always helps make them feel good. For example, if you meet a recruiting manager for a position you know you want, you might take little steps to become qualified during your college career. With every smaller goal you attain, keep the recruiter informed. Then when you are prepared let them know you are now qualified for the position. These small updates over time will help develop a trusting relationship, which in turn can result in your next position. 

Have fun networking and remember your network is power.  

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