Here are 6 tips for networking while you're still in college:
"The concept is to plant the seeds before you need to harvest them," says Heather Krasna, director of career services at the University of Washington's Evans School of Public Affairs.
Play the student card: Alumni and other contacts are more likely to want to help you while you're still a student, Krasna says. "It's less pressure because the person is just asking for advice," she says, and not yet looking for a job. That means if you want to pick the brain of someone who works in the industry you want to go into or even request an informational interview, now's the time to do it. Grow those relationships while there's no pressure, so those contacts will want to help you when you transition to the work world.
Use your friends' parents as resources: They've got decades of experience and are probably willing to share their expertise with you—and maybe even their contacts, too.
Get out of the bubble: The isolation of some college campuses fosters learning, but when it comes to networking, students can get ahead by networking off campus. Check out conferences in your field or your local Chamber of Commerce. Use social media strategically about six to eight weeks in advance of your landing at that conference to reach out to people who are going to be at that event.
Use LinkedIn: Too many students make the mistake of thinking they can avoid LinkedIn until after college, but the smart move is to use it now to track the network you're building. LinkedIn recently launched new options for students that make it easier than ever to get the hang of this network.
Use Twitter strategically: While LinkedIn is lauded as the professional social network, Twitter can be even more useful for connecting with people you want to know. Make a list of people in your industry who you look up to, and use the network strategically to connect with them. Like LinkedIn, Twitter can help you take all of these strategies to the next level because it provides an opportunity to keep in touch with the network you're building.
Get an internship: This is the most obvious option, but it can't be overstated. The value of an internship is tremendous, both in terms of skills and contacts. Employers often hire full-time workers from their internship pool, which means having an internship puts you ahead of other job seekers. In addition to giving you real-life experience to put on your résumé, an internship puts you in eyesight of people who work in your field of choice, which means they're more likely to think of you when job opportunities arise.
Good luck in your achievements!