Okay, sure. Grades will help you find a great job and find your career. They are, however, far from the only way to get the ball rolling. In fact, in many ways, they’re often only an extra push. The prime mover is, in fact, more likely to be the people you know and what they know. For that reason, you want to make sure that you know a lot of people. That’s only part of the puzzle. You also need to make sure you know the right people. Here we’re talking not just about strong connections, like best friends, but also weak ones, like acquaintances, as both can be very valuable.
But how do you do that in college? What strategies can you use to find people to help you get your career started or who can help you along when – down the line – you want to make a switch? That’s the question we’re going to explore today.
Pursue your interests
Here I’m not talking about drinking or partying. Though those are surely interesting activities, it can be hard to find employment in either. Instead, I’m talking about interests that actually might lead to connections, even if only indirectly. For example, while you probably won’t be able to be a professional chess player, there are a lot of smart people that hang around in chess clubs who might just be very valuable connections when you want to start something or they do.
What is important here is that you don’t pursue your interests on your own. If you can find anybody to share with, then that can help you get more out of your interest by being able to share as well as make valuable connections that are based on more than just wanting to get ahead. Because though networking is useful, building connections spontaneously and naturally with people you like is far more effective.
Internships are good for a lot of things, not just getting your foot in the door in a company you want to work at. Don’t get me wrong, it works well for that too, but if you also make sure to keep in touch with the people you work at when they move on you’ll suddenly have a connection in other places as well.
So, when you’re in an internship don’t just make friends with the person you work for. Talk to other people as well. You never know where people might end up and who might be climbing the ladder quicker than you thought possible.
In this way, even internships at little-known companies like trust my paper or a local newspaper can actually turn into opportunities to forge important connections.
Going abroad might sound like it’s just a cultural experience and doesn’t have much career benefit, but nothing can be further from the truth. In foreign climes, your regular habits are no longer tenable and you don’t hang out with the same people you always have. Instead, you’ll make new friends, meet new people and because you’re exotic you’re just that little bit more memorable.
That means that you’re in a perfect position to make the connection for your career. You might even be able to take your first step up your career ladder in a foreign country. That will often mean a lot of learning opportunities and also the chance to possibly skip a few rungs. Then, when you come home, you’ll be ahead of the game.
Even if that doesn’t happen, a semester abroad can teach you invaluable multi-cultural skills and make you more flexible in your thinking. This can stand you in good stead when you want to get your dream job. After all, a corporate culture is also just another culture that you need to understand and adapt to quickly.
Stay in touch
However many connections you make, it will all be for naught if you lose them all again afterward. For that reason, realize that every relationship is not just making that connection, but after that maintaining it. If you’re naturally good at this, then so much the better. If, however, you’re not, then make sure that you set aside some time each week (or even each day) where you reach out to people that you want to stay in touch with.
Often it doesn’t have to be much. Send them a note on a birthday. Congratulate them when something goes right for them. Invite them to events in your life. In this way, you’ll stay on their radar. What’s more, when you need their help they’ll remember back how you made an effort over the years and be far more likely to make an effort on your behalf as well.
You never know what contact will be the one that lands you a job. This is because it might not be the person you’re talking to who lands you that connect, but instead a friend of a friend. For that reason, it is important that you maintain a network that is both large and varied.
In that case, whatever you’re looking for or whatever problem you need solving, you’ll have a much better chance of finding somebody who can help you out. What’s more, the better a job you do of staying connected, the more likely they are to help you. And in that way, you’ll be able to get ahead in your career as well as your life.