Networking is a critical part of life, but it is often a very misunderstood practice. Networking is not the process of collecting contacts who can help you out at some future point in time. If this selfish supposition is your stating point, then your network is not likely to grow or maintain itself as a solid support system. True networking is based on balanced exchanges, mutual respect and genuine fondness. Forging real, long-lasting bonds with people is the key to effective networking.
Here are some tips for networking successfully in college:
1. Office hours are almost as important as lectures.
If you think that officer hours are a waste of your time, you’re a fool. Some of the long-term bonds you can form will be created in the offices of your professors. Get to know these welcoming men and women. Talk about the course material, their research or your career interests. Ask for advice. Be respectful and courteous, and recognize that your professors don’t have a lot of time.
A majority of professors love interested and engaging students. Think about how many disinterested bodies they have to try and teach. If you enter office hours with genuine enthusiasm and a thirst for knowledge, you will soon discover that most of your professors are friendly and helpful. Once you have created a working friendship, you’ll have an ally in your field of study who will be there for you for the rest of your life. Don’t forget to keep in touch when you leave.
2. Section is a time to make allies.
Section can be grueling, especially if the discussion grows stagnant with repetition, soap-box speeches and general nonsense. When you witness something stupid, like say, a person professing their undying devotion to 19th century proletariat revolution, look around the room. See who else is rolling their eyes along with you. Find like minded, intelligent classmates and target them for friendship.
3. Get to know your roommates, housemates and neighbors
Familiarize yourself with the people around you. Be your own person, but don’t be anti-social. Talk to people. Find out their likes and dislikes. Develop relationships with people you respect, and shy away from associations with distracting, unfocused party mongers. Unless of course, your interests happen to coincide with these people.
4. Be social when it comes to hobbies, interests and events.
Meet people who share your interests. Join a club, find a study group or start a band. Connect with others who share your unique set of likes and dislikes.
5. Don’t be a jerk to anyone.
Don’t be a chump in section. Don’t try to embarrass people. Keep it civil with your roommate. Just don’t cause too much drama—your network will be better as a result.
Remember, don’t have the mindset of “how can this person help me in the future.” Your network should consist of friends and colleagues that you generally respect and would help out in any situation. The feeling should also be mutual. Don’t coddle a bitter professor just because he’s got a name that would look nice at the bottom of your letter of recommendation to grad school. Don’t associate with kids you don’t like. Create real relationships based on trust and mutual admiration. That’s how you build a large network of real friends who would do anything to help you out, and would expect the same type of assistance from you.