In terms of business (and life in general), building relationships is one of the most underrated yet most important skills to have. Think about the most successful person you know. Chances are, they didn’t achieve their success alone. They probably have a strong network of supporters, influencers, mentors, and teachers who helped and supported and continue to support them along the way. Networking is a vital skill for success, yet we don’t learn how to build relationships in a classroom.
People who have a strong support network have a lot of advantages. For example, these types of people generally don’t have a problem getting a job in this economy. Why? Because if they need help, they can just make a phone call or write an email to someone in their network who will help them get back on their feet quickly, or at least point them in the right direction.
So if having a good
network is so important, why don’t we learn how to build one college? Well, the beautiful thing is that while you won’t learn how to make relationships in class, there are tons of-hands on opportunities to practice your skills outside the classroom. Here are three ways to improve your networking skills in college.
1. Join a Club
When I was in college, we had a club fair every semester which attracted hundreds of students who came out to see what clubs the school had to offer. Unfortunately, most of these curious students were freshmen. That means that most students (save for the freshmen) didn’t take the opportunity to see what new clubs they could join!
This is unfortunate because an opportunity to meet new people and have new experiences is literally being wasted. There were tons of opportunities at club day at my university. If you were interested in volunteering, you could join Habitat for Humanity. If you were interested in frisbee, there was a frisbee club.
When I studied abroad in Australia, I joined BASIC: The Beer And Social Intercourse Club. Chances are, if there’s something you’re interested in, there’s probably a club for it at your school.
I encourage you to join clubs (if you haven’t already) because you will have some great experiences and make some good memories, but you will also meet great people and form great relationships which could last a lot longer than just your 4 short years in college. In other words, a little bit of effort can yield huge benefits. When joining a club, you can do two things. You can join something you are really interested in or passionate about or know a lot about. That is a fine strategy. Or, you can also join a club you may be interested in but you know nothing about. The second option is often more beneficial, because it opens you up to experiences and people you generally would not be exposed to otherwise!
I know what some of you are thinking. But Ryan, my school is different. When I went to the club day, all the clubs seemed lame and there were none I was interested in. Great! I’m glad you thought about that, because it leads me to my next point…
2. Start a Club
Starting a club is one of the things I wish I had done when I was in college. Why? Because it’s such an amazing learning experience. You can learn and sharpen so many new and real-life skills that you aren’t exposed to in the classroom. Skills like how to get people to sign up for your club and how to get the word out (marketing and sales skills), how to meet more people (networking skills), how to manage people (leadership skills) how to deal with money (finance skills), and so on. For some, it will look good on their resume. However, I would encourage you to start a club because you want to, not because it looks good on a resume. We’re not in high school anymore.
3. Network With Professors
Another thing I wish I did a little more in college was to build relationships with some of my professors. Professors are some of the most connected people in the world. They are knowledgeable and they can pass on what they’ve learned about life to you. Not just classroom skills, but critical thinking skills, networking skills, and all kinds of other life skills and advice. Some professors hold consulting positions at other companies. Some are published authors. They can benefit you in so many ways. I’ve even heard of cases of recent graduates who get their first job out of college through their connections with an old professor.
There are tons of other ways to expand your horizons in college, and you have more opportunities in college than virtually any other time in your life. I encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities. And of course, this goes without saying, but build relationships ethically. Don’t just talk to a professor because you think he can get you a job in the future. Don’t just join a club so you can put it on your resume. When you are genuine and have the right intentions, people are always willing to help you grow and get to where you want to go. You can also help them in some ways. It is a win-win situation. Did I miss anything? If you have any other networking tips for college, leave them in the comments below.