Networking 101: How to Foster Relationships in College and Beyond

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Gracie Gitzinger
A group of college students standing together on a college football field.

The ability to form relationships with others in both education and business settings not only allows people to learn from others and trade information but serves as a path to form life-long relationships with mutual benefits.

So what exactly is networking?

Networking can be defined as a mutually beneficial interaction that involves exchanging ideas and information between individuals who are connected by a common career, industry, or interest. Networking shouldn’t be transactional; it doesn't have to take place only when you need something from someone else.

Where to network?

LinkedIn is one of my personal favorite platforms to network with others on. The website allows for users to search for people who work at specific companies or have certain occupations and then can filter down to those who went to the same college/high school or who have worked at similar companies as those searching. LinkedIn has a messaging feature where direct messages can be sent to connect people with each other. Oftentimes, the direct messages can lead to exchanging emails or phone numbers and continue to develop relationships.

It’s important to also look out for networking events that are held in larger cities or at universities. In-person networking events are a great way to build self-confidence and conversation skills while meeting new professionals that could potentially turn into long-term relationships. A lot of the times, colleges will bring in alumni to network with students (look out for different alumni events like alumni weekend throughout the year) or cities will have networking events with registration open to the public where various professionals come together to share information and meet each other.

Networking with peers

Networking can happen between people of ALL ages. As a college student, my “network” consists mainly of my peers along with some adults (mainly Ohio State alumni) who I have connected with throughout my time at university. Fellow students are great to network with because they’re often in similar places in their career, acting as a support system to help others grow and develop. It’s important to foster student relationships because in the long-term those could turn into professional development and career opportunities.

Networking with professionals

Being a student of any kind is very beneficial because often people love to help students! A good starting point to networking with professionals would be with alumni of your college/university. It’s easier to connect with people who share something in common. An example of a message to send to a school alumnus is as follows:

“Hi, Montana! I noticed that you also attended Ohio State University and have a range of experience in the fashion industry. I am a current OSU student looking to break into the NYC retail industry for a summer internship. I know you have a lot of experience in the space, and it would be great to connect and chat about the dos and “don’ts” as I begin the recruitment cycle. Thanks!”

Alumni understand what it’s like to be in our shoes as students and want to help others succeed. It never hurts to reach out over email or LinkedIn, at the very least someone will not respond, but more likely than not people will be willing to connect and offer any advice they may have!

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