Networking is an investment. You put in a little time and some social energy and reap the future benefits that come from a strong community of friends, peers, and other professionals. The returns may not be measured in basis points or dollars, but the support you receive from a network is one of the best on the market.
Like any investment, the returns are dependent on what you put in and for how long. Start late and you miss out on the compounding nature of networking and connecting and regret it years later. The first time many people start to network is when they are ready to enter the workforce and start looking for jobs. Reaching out to alumni, browsing LinkedIn for people working in your target industry/company, and attending networking events are some of the familiar ways recent grads begin their networking experience.
What if we started investing in our networks even earlier? We already do in a way, as anyone who has attended a university networking event or high school jobs fair can attest to. But, as readers of the UpHabit blog and users of the app for thoughtful Super Connectors may already know, these efforts may not be enough.
Build your Online Presence
Step one is creating your online presence. With the internet and its plethora of social networking tools, it’s never been easier to find, reach out, and talk to anyone, anywhere. It also allows you to advertise yourself, your goals, your skills, and your passions to the world while finding individuals that share them. LinkedIn is the go-to for beginning your networking. It allows you to build a professional profile, connect with people you know, reach out to new individuals, and join groups that interest you.
Not only does LinkedIn put you and your story out there, but it also helps you find individuals you want, and should want to, network with. From finding all your school’s alumni to individuals working in a specific role, its functionality makes it a needed tool for any networker. As University Affairs magazine explains, LinkedIn is the “backbone of your online professional network.” Make sure yours is strong from the start
Connect with the right people
It’s common to think the best networks are the biggest ones: bigger is better, right? Yet, this isn’t always true in practice. Although it never hurts to know more people, it’s the quality of these contacts that truly matters. This mindset can help you grow your networks faster while using less of your limited time during the school year.
As a student, there are a couple of groups of people you should be networking with. Especially as a beginner, recent graduates and upper-year students in your program are a great first step. These individuals had been in your shoes only a couple of years earlier, so their experiences and advice can be priceless. Professors and other faculty staff are another great start for students, offering advice with both school and careers.
Art Markman writes for Harvard Business Review that every student should find a mentor in the field they plan to pursue. We’ve identified mentors as one of the 5 types of people you need in your network before, but their guiding hand and support are exactly what any student or recent graduate could use. Bonus points go to Super Connectors that can help connect you with other professionals and help you grow your network and communities.
Maintain your network
The key to any network, often overlooked, is what you do with it. It’s all too easy to attend an event, meet new people, but then forget to connect with them afterwards, especially with countless assignments, part-time jobs, and campus clubs taking priority. Plus, as your network slowly grows, it can require more and more time to maintain. What if you just don’t have all the time?
UpHabit is the Personal CRM for thoughtful Super Connectors, the type of networkers that understand the value of strong communities and real relationships. As a leading Personal CRM, it helps you manage all your contacts from one application, taking the hard work out of networking. UpHabit users already know the value of these features, but how can students leverage them?
Students may have contacts everywhere, from their school and personal emails to their phone books, and keeping track of all of them can be the first challenge. UpHabit can sync and merge contacts from all your sources, keeping your personal and professional contacts organized and easy to find. Most of all, UpHabit’s priority is user privacy; your data will never be shared.
With every contact in one place, students can take advantage of reminders, tags, and notes. Reminders to reach out to connections, searchable notes to keep track of every important detail, and tags to organize your growing network are some of the keys to maintaining your network and community. And with UpHabit, students can work towards becoming Super Connectors themselves, with the help of Introductions, the new feature that makes connecting others as easy as a couple of clicks.
Beginning the networking journey can seem like a daunting feat for students. With little experience, few contacts, and classes to worry about, it’s easy to push it down the line. But starting early, having a strong online presence, finding the right people, and maximizing your productivity can make it just as easy to start investing in your future networks today!