One of the best times to tackle networking is during your school semester — seriously. I know it may sound hard to believe, but the decision to grow your network while you’re in the thick of your semester can be one of the best ways to approach networking in a stress-free way.
The focus with networking during that time would be less about trying to get something from every person you meet and more about learning more about them and potential paths you may want to pursue post-college.
Sit down coffees with professors, video conferences with someone you admire who lives miles away, or phone calls with a friend who is a few steps ahead of you can all add value and give you something to look forward to.
Too often the thought of networking intimidates because it’s immediately correlated with events that can make even the most extroverted person uncomfortable — each semester gives you the opportunity to redefine what networking can mean to you.
Start with LinkedIn (or your social network of choice)
Cast your net wide at first. Look for people who just seem really interesting to you and whose careers seem similar to what you may want to pursue. Write out a template that you can use and personalize it depending on the person and start sending out cold emails. Things you’ll want to include — a note on why they seem so great, or interesting, to you; a blurb on who you are; and a simple ask. I suggest going for a quick coffee or a call or video chat, for someone who isn’t in close range to you.
Email your current network
I know this sounds redundant, but it isn’t just about doing your own research to find people who you can connect with. Reaching out to your current network helps you do two things — keeps you on their radar and reinforces that you think very highly of them and value their opinion. Don’t be afraid to email your people and ask them if they have someone who you should be connecting with. You’ll be surprised at how likely they will be to make those warm intros.
Alumni networks, alumni networks, alumni networks
While you’re at school, you have greater access to both understanding and touching base with those who have walked your campus before. Start by figuring out who has graduated from any of the clubs or organizations you belong to then stretch your net out wider to include just about anyone who was once a student at your university. The personal connections to an alma mater can help turn a cold email into a warm and welcoming one, but you’ll have to do your homework first to make sure that you’re connecting in the most personal ways possible.
Finding your stride with networking during the school semester isn’t always easy, but the benefits can be incredibly worth it. People have way more time to invest in informational conversations during seasons that aren’t the summer, so try your best to make the most of that time.