Students Share Their Most Effective Networking Strategies

If you’ve clicked on this article, you probably know the basics of networking. Now, up your networking game with these success stories from college students and grads—myself included!

Build it into your routine.

If you don’t build networking into your routine, you’ll likely forget to keep up with your efforts in the chaos of life. It took me years to start talking to more people in my year. But once I made a conscious habit of connecting, it became a more natural part of my routine.

“In terms of routine, specifically about applying for jobs, I think the best advice is following up post-interview with whoever I was interviewing with,” says Jared Merrifield, recent Emerson College Class of 2022 graduate.

“So whether that’s the first stage of the interview, or the last stage of an interview, making sure that you follow up with everyone that you talked with—I think it’s important to build that connection with that person.”

Merrifield also explains how making a habit of remembering and using people’s names at interviews or industry events is game-changing: “Knowing people’s names, making it feel more personal, is super important,” he says.

Make the first move.

If you’re like me, you may need some “networking for introverts” tips to get you through talking to people, let alone making the first move to connect. But the more you actively practice it, the more you’ll feel comfortable and confident.

In my first year of college, I didn’t talk to many peers outside the handful I knew who weren’t in my major. However, my network grew when I began making a conscious effort to talk to people in my major who were planning to enter the same industry. Soon I had a core group of professional acquaintances.

Abby Michaud, an Emerson graduate of the Class of 2022, is never afraid to make the first move: “I’d say one of the things my dad taught me to do was make a new friend in every class. Just one new person!” she says. “You want to make sure you break the ice, make it welcoming, and show you genuinely want to befriend them, as opposed to ‘I see you as a key player to help me in my networking.’”

Engage with school faculty and career services.

Talking with faculty and career service advisors is easy. They are literally there to listen and help you. Take advantage of that and the connections they have in your industry. Visit office hours, attend career counseling services, and be involved in your classes.

For instance, a simple conversation with my Copyediting professor helped me find my internship opportunity! Trust me, making yourselves known among your professors can pay off.

Emerson College ‘22 graduate Audrey Iocca explains that she used her career services and faculty at Emerson “a ton.” She admits she was “completely lost in how to write a good cover letter. I am a good writer. And I write good fiction and good essays, but trying to pare myself down to three paragraphs to try to tell a company who I am, and what I believe in, and why I can be a good candidate is really hard,” she says. “And you should use career services because they do this every day.”

She approached her professors as well: “Getting advice from professors was very helpful” because they can help “make your cover letter and your resume more appealing to the industry that you’re specifically looking at.”

Harness the power of a great elevator pitch.

Write out an elevator pitch and practice it in front of the mirror. Don’t memorize it unless you want to sound like your Linkedin profile, but have a general idea of what you want to say. If you can find the sweet spot of marketing yourself without appearing to be marketing yourself, you’re golden.

In my experience, I always talk about my passion for writing. That way, the person I talk to will see my enthusiasm and often match it.

“I would give the advice not to underestimate the strength of the projects that you’ve done in your coursework that is relevant to the work that you’re going to be doing for the position that you’re applying for,” says Audrey Iocca, an Emerson College ‘22 graduate, when asked about her experience with pitching in interviews.

“An example at Emerson is that we take a lot of publishing classes, and I’m interested in publishing,” she says. “So for a publishing interview, even if I hadn’t had an internship in publishing, I’ve still done many projects in class that make me a more prepared candidate. I’ve experienced what some of the lingo is, and I know some of the different systems that they use because I’ve had to use them for projects, even though I’ve never had any real-world experience.”

Ultimately, Iocca advises college students not to “feel like you’re below somebody else in the interview process, just because you might not have real-world experience.”

Offer your services.

Is there a professor in need of an assistant for their research project? Is there an alumnus looking for interns at their new start-up? Does a faculty member need help with menial tasks such as raking leaves?

People rarely forget when you do a good deed for them. Offer your help to those on campus whenever you can, and you’ll find more people willing to help you in return (like when you’re looking for a job).

“I can thank networking for my new job,” says Ethan Curtis, Boston University ‘24, majoring in Biomedical Engineering and Pre-Med.

“This past summer, I took both an EMT and CNA course. Throughout the time that I completed my summer courses, I also did some gardening on the side for work. Months later, I completed my EMT course and got my certification, and it came time to apply for a job. So, I asked my gardening client for a reference, and she said yes. In my interview at a Boston hospital, the interviewer said, ‘Oh, how do you know _____?’ I responded that I had worked for her all summer. She replied, ‘Oh, I used to work with her.’ As I got the job that day, I felt as though my network significantly increased my chances of getting my job. It’s all about who you know.”

Set goals and track your progress.

Keep a journal of your ventures and efforts. Or check in with yourself monthly by setting a reminder on your smartphone calendar. If it helps, you can do what I do and buy a customized planner.

Recent Emerson College grad Abby Michaud advises college students applying to jobs or internships to set weekly goals of how many people they want to reach out to, or how many applications they’ll send, “depending on the pace you want to go.”

“During the summer, when I wasn’t really looking for jobs, I [applied] at least once a month because you never know who will get back to you,” says Michaud. “This fall, I know I’m about to graduate. So, I had a goal of sending out an application at least once a week.”

Michaud says that regardless of what stage you are in for job applications and networking, “keep throwing your name out there. Keep getting some name recognition. Maintain those relationships with your peers and your teachers.”

Don’t be afraid to get personal.

Colleagues and professionals alike appreciate your unique character. Don’t make an effort to be something you’re not. Show sides of yourself that are important to you, and the right people will relate. Talking about your passions with people interested in the same things always works best.

Merrifield recommends “getting a feel for the person who’s interviewing you,” he says. “Maybe they are immediately down to business, or maybe they crack a joke early. If you have an opener that you think is funny and works, then you can gauge the rest of the interview based on that and have that more personal feel.”

Understanding the interviewer can help you relate on a deeper level. “Maybe the person, as an example, had a lot of Patriots and Red Sox memorabilia around their office,” he says. “So right off the bat, it was easy to connect with them about sports. It might seem small at that moment, but it helps build that connection and rapport that can help you further down the line.”

Written by Emily Curtis for the Student Handshake blog