7 Ways to Effectively Network your First Year in College

By: Nolan Schneider and Markus Heinrich

Navigating a successful college career is definitely a creative process. Students, now more than ever, have to find a variety of activities, volunteer hours and organizations to participate in, as to build a strong resume during their time in attendance.  One of the most trying experiences is figuring out how to go about getting involved in the right things, right away. 

The first year of school can be difficult, as you might join some organizations or fall in with a group of people that don’t suit your personality or your future plans.  That’s okay!

Remember, it’s natural to have to move around a little bit and re-adjust when integrating into a new environment.  The main point is that you make sure to re-adjust.  Don’t simply give up on getting involved in student organizations or meeting new people.  If making friends and befriending the staff and faculty doesn’t work the first time around, reassess and try again.  For me and many others, these connections, organizations and activities were absolute necessities for getting a job or moving onto graduate/professional school after graduation. 

Having learned the hard way, myself, during my first two negligent years of college, I can truly say that the more you get involved in right away (i.e. clubs, organizations, social gatherings, working on campus, volunteering, etc.) the more success you’ll find during your time in school.  Freshman year is truly the year to plant the seeds of success to grow over the course of your college career.

That is why I teamed up with fellow Black Hills State alumnus, volunteer project collaborator and good friend, Markus Heinrich, to compile a list of 7 tips to successfully start building a strong network as you start your life in college.

1. Never underestimate any conversation at any social event. You never know who the person you are talking to is, where she/he is from or who or what she/he might know that could lead to an internship or a job.

2. Don’t be afraid to speak up in class.  If a professor asks a question, it means she/he wants an answer.  You will limit your academic growth and potential understanding if you do not make an effort to expand relationships with your professors.  It is also a good exercise in balancing self-expression and personal opinion with educated articulation!

3. Get to know people involved in student life. The student organization director is an excellent place to start.  She/he is the person on campus with the most current information on any given student organization, or at least she/he will be able to put you in touch with someone who is.  Not to mention she/he probably has an abundance of projects that need volunteers and student leaders to execute.     

4. Be true to your word. Being labeled as someone who doesn't follow through is damaging to your image, and might strongly effect your inclusion in projects or job opportunities in the future.

5. Get a job on campus.  Nothing helps you meet people or opens great opportunities quite like proving that you have a strong work ethic around the staff and faculty at a university. Make a name for yourself as a good worker with a positive attitude and people will remember you when they hear about job openings after graduation.

6. It’s all about who you know.  Or more eloquently put, it’s all about showing what you know, and how you can use it, to who you know.  Meet as many people as possible and always consider what they do, how they do it and who they collaborate with as a potential asset to your future endeavors, all while illustrating that you could be the same asset for them.

7. Be sincere!  Although networking can often feel a bit forced or fake, it is best to do everything in your power to remain sincere and honest.  Always be polite, never lose your cool, avoid talking bad about people in front of their faces and ESPECIALLY behind their back, but make sure that you are staying true to your interests and your goals at all times. 

I hope that these tips helped to increase your social appetite as you near your first year in college.  And remember, if you don’t meet people and explore opportunities this year, you’ll be one year older when you do!

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