Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

Building Your Network Early: How to Use Your Campus Connections

Even as a college freshman, you probably hear professors, career counselors and parents telling you that it’s never too early to start applying for internships and learning how to network. But while you’re still getting used to your newfound independence, hectic social schedule and heavy homework load, networking may seem like a too-vague responsibility that you can easily cross off your to-do list, at least for the time being. Your parents and professors are right, however. Your network is one of the most important forces you’ll have working for you over the next several years, whether or not you’re actively looking for a job. In fact, the earlier you start, the more valuable each of your relationships will be when it comes to finding recommendations and expanding your network later on. How should you begin?

In the early days, you don’t have to start attending networking events off campus, although if you can find the time and a friend to go with you, those are useful, too. As a freshman, just start networking around campus. You might be surprised how valuable connections made with other students can be now and in the future, so join clubs, attend mixers, and don’t be afraid to reach out to people in your study groups or in class.

Another easy resource for you to tap for your network is your professors. Take advantage of their office hours to talk about classwork, and then ask them questions about their work on campus and in the community. Most college professors are happy to take students under their wing and help them explore new interests, adapt to college life, and make connections with professionals off campus who can help you, too. You don’t have to make friends with all of your professors, but by the time you graduate, imagine how much you could have learned from two or three professors over four years, and how much easier it is to ask for letters of recommendation or how many people they’ve introduced to you from their own network.

Using your campus career center is also a key to building up your network at first and then expanding it as you get older. Use the materials in the office to learn all about networking, subscribe to the email newsletter or calendar to find out about career fairs and events on campus, and then make an appointment to talk with a career counselor. A counselor will be able to help you answer questions about the different aspects of networking and making contacts, on campus, online, in the community, and throughout life. They’ll also find opportunities for your specific needs while helping you set goals for networking, job searching and planning out your career. Networking can boost your confidence for interviews, meeting new people, and trusting your conversation skills, so get in as much practice as you can now. It’s never too early to start.

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