By Dakota Luttrell
A commonly under-valued portion of the collegiate experience is the opportunity to build and establish a network for yourself. You may build and mold this network to fulfill your needs. Whether you wish to create a large network with ample career opportunities for yourself or to establish a healthy social network of colleagues and friends, your time in college provides you many opportunities to do so.
Advice for Student Networking
Before we begin, let’s establish that the essential element to creating a network is diminishing any fear of socialization. Making your name known to those around you does require some social skills. Whether you are outgoing or an introvert, you possess the necessary abilities to establish a rich network, but you may have to step out of your comfort zone. You can participate in mock interviews, take public speaking courses, or volunteer to give presentations to audiences in order to improve upon these abilities.
During my time in college, I have challenged myself by stepping out of my comfort zone. Becoming a student leader has given me an immense opportunity to improve my social skills while continually building my network. As previously stated, you can build a network to your liking. My experience is primarily in building professional networks, something at which I have been fairly successful. I have had little to no difficulty getting interviews and finding internship opportunities.
Steps to Building a Network as a Student
There is no set way to build a network for yourself, since your network may only become what you desire it to be. However, there are certain steps you can take to put yourself in a strong position to build and maintain a network that fits your needs. Here are a couple of tips to establish a network of current and potential professionals during your time in college.
- Do not hesitate to sit at the front of the class and actively participate.
This allows you to establish a professional relationship with your professors and will give you exposure to your peers. Having a network of classmates is very beneficial. Group projects become less of a burden and give you opportunities to display leadership skills and develop project management strategies. This will give you a wide network of ambitious, similarly-minded individuals who you may aid and have there to assist you with any issues, giving you valuable professional experience similar to that of a workplace.
Creating these relationships encourages engagement inside and outside of the classroom. This network in itself enhances the college experience through help, fellowship, and potentially lasting friendships. A network as such makes the college experience more enjoyable and remains there after the fact. Networking is commonly perceived as getting to know those who have already made it or had experience, but integrating aspiring professionals into your network is both a long and short-term investment for them and yourself.
- Take full advantage of job fairs and “Meet the Firms” events on your campus.
These events are put together by your department solely to assist you in networking with local businesses who are primarily interested in hiring people with skills like or similar to yours. However, simply attending these events is not enough. Arrive fully prepared with a complete, up-to-date resume. Your university should have multiple resources to assist you in executing a successful one.
A successful resume is more than one that is filled with all the necessary information. Your resume should both directly and indirectly show employers your abilities and experience. It is helpful to have points on your resume that can create meaningful conversation when displayed in person at these events, but still get your point across when they take it back with them.
Approach employers’ tables with an eager, confident attitude. This does not go to say to act unlike yourself, but attempt to display qualities within yourself that fit the position and you feel are desirable to the employer. Many students may just see these events as an opportunity to meet and get their name out there, but with the correct approach, they are the perfect opportunity to create promising relationships with partners of firms, employees, or even representatives from businesses from which you desire employment.
- Get involved in campus clubs and/or other professional organizations.
Involvement in clubs and organizations does much more for your professional prospects than just boosting your resume. Activities in these organizations allow you to establish and maintain relationships with your university’s alumni, current faculty, and other student leaders. They also give you opportunities to work on team-building skills and, once again, allow you to immerse yourself in settings containing like-minded individuals.
It is highly recommended that you join your respective university’s Accounting Club. These groups normally schedule and coordinate the college’s “Meet the Firms” events, and often have strong alumni networks. Communicating with these alumni can be very beneficial. They can give you tips about how they were successful in their job search after graduation and provide you with insight about the industry they work in, so you may further gauge your interests. Going into any given field or industry blindly can be risky, and being more informed may encourage you to consider all of your options.
As a commuter, it was difficult to become motivated to join campus organizations. However, once I broke that barrier, I found myself seeking to join more groups because of the immediate benefit. Participation in these organizations is a time commitment, but the experiences, relationships established, and growth opportunities both personally and professionally give priceless value to all of the time and energy spent.
Benefits of Networking in College
Hopefully, this post has given you useful tips and insight on the importance of networking as a student. It is true that our main purpose as students is to become educated and earn a degree. However, stepping out of your comfort zone to build a network of connections that fits your needs is far more beneficial. The experiences you acquire, memories you create, and relationships you establish will have a much larger impact on your life and career. College gives you a prime opportunity to do those things.
Another extremely beneficial career move is earning the CPA certification. The benefits of becoming a CPA include increased earning potential, career opportunities, job stability, career flexibility, and respect. To secure the CPA, you must pass the CPA Exam, and you can learn everything you need to know about the CPA Exam in this free CPA Exam Guide.