Maria Brown is a junior at the University of Nebraska at Omaha studying Journalism, with an emphasis in Public Relations and Advertising. Brown is a staff member of MaverickPR, the school’s student-firm. She enjoys writing and event planning. After graduation, she would like to do communications and event planning for a nonprofit. This spring, Brown will become the Communications Director for MavPRSSA.
It is your first week of classes during your freshmen year of college; you go to every class that week and sit in the back row. All of your classes are large and you don’t talk to anyone. You continue to go to class, but you would sit in silence, you never made any friends or went to any study groups. After your first set of exams, you stop showing up to classes and try getting by with the minimum.
Fast-forward to your junior year of college and you are well into your degree course load. If you haven’t noticed already, your classmates are practically the same in all of your classes. But maybe you are still your freshmen self and you didn’t notice because you are sitting in the back row and not making friends with anyone.
If you are that student who only goes to class and gets by with the minimum and doesn’t make friends with their classmates. Change yourself, now; because if there was one thing that high school didn’t teach you, it is the importance of networking.
Even as a freshman you should begin building your network. We aren’t talking about the network of friends who you’ll be going out with on a Friday or Saturday night. We are talking about the network of classmates who will someday become professionals. Those guest speakers your professor brings into class, those are the people who should become your network.
Are you asking yourself, “Why do I need a network?” Here’s why.
You may have heard a time or two, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” In an essence, this is true. Though what you know is important, whom you know is also essential. If you are in a specific network and build relationships with the right people, you already are opening your doors to greater opportunities.
One way to start your network is by joining LinkedIn and creating your profile. This social media site makes it easy to stay connected with professionals you meet. It also allows you to showcase yourself and your experience, internships, volunteer work, interests, and student organizations. You will find professionals contacting you because of something they saw on your LinkedIn profile that caught their interest.
When you meet professionals in your career area, ask for their business card and stay in touch with them as you finish college and begin your career. Some day down the road, they may be a job reference or job referral. Your network can be the key to your dream job.
It is important to build strong, long lasting relationships with your classmates. These classmates will be the people you work along side, both in school and professional life. They will be your backbone and your go to for advice.
Another great opportunity to build your network is by joining professional organizations that are relative to your career field. They will introduce you to professionals in your career and will have opportunities to go to professional conferences.
Don’t wait until your last semesters to start building your network. Begin on day one of your freshmen year, get to know your classmates and make relationships with your professors. They will know important people you don’t. Take advantage of guest speakers who are in your career field. Stay involved in organizations that are relative to your career interests that will connect you with resources and people to enrich your education, extend your network and launch your career.
Remember, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”