6 Networking Tips for Students and New Graduates

6 Networking Tips for Students and New Graduates

Think networking is simply exchanging business cards? Nope.

“Networking is about building relationships,” said Ivan Misner, chief visionary officer of BNI, a global business networking organization he founded in 1985 in Charlotte, N.C., that now has more than 11,100 chapters in 76 countries.

“A lot of people use networking as a face-to-face cold-call opportunity—they’re just passing out cards,” said Misner, who is the author of several books on networking, including Work Your Network with the 4Cs: Turn Every Handshake into a Steady Stream of Referrals (independently published, 2022).

But it really starts with getting to know another person. The key is to engage with them: Ask what the person does, what their job is like, what they enjoy about it. And listen more than you talk.

“When people feel heard, they feel connected,” Misner said. No one is going to refer you for an internship, job or business deal “until they know who you are.”

Networking generally tends to get short shrift in school, noted Misner, who has taught college at the undergraduate and graduate level, including at Concordia University in Austin, Texas; California State Polytech University in Pomona, Calif., and the University of La Verne in La Verne, Calif., where he was invited to sit on its board of directors.

He advised students, then and now, to mine their relationships for job leads. They often overlook family members whose contacts can be valuable. Other potential sources for internships and jobs include neighbors, professors, high school teachers and former employers.

Misner offered the following six tips for students and new graduates:

  1. Cultivate a confident mindset.
    “Don’t be afraid to talk to people,” Misner said. “The best way to talk to people is to ask questions: ‘What do you love about what you do?’

    “A good networker, he noted, “is like an interviewer.”

  2. Clean up your social media presence.
    “Any decent company will check your social media,” Misner said. A potential employer does not want to see photos of a potential job candidate getting drunk during spring break, he noted, or see messages containing vulgarity.
  3. Leverage your existing relationships.
    Most people should be building their network before they graduate, Misner said, noting that it’s “a beacon of hope in a sea of fear” about the future.
  4.  Tap into lots of different resources.
    “Diversity is really important with networking because networks are by nature ‘clumpy,’ ” Misner said. “They’re cluster-like because we feel comfortable with people like ourselves,” who may have a shared professional background, education or age.
    But you may be connected with some people who are totally different from you, and those contacts can help connect you to additional clusters of people that you otherwise might not know.
  5. Categorize your contacts.
    Go through your databases, including contacts listed on Outlook and in your phone, and categorize your contacts as active (friends and family), passive (professors, neighbors, friends who graduated ahead of you) and dormant (high school teachers, former employers). 

    “Start with active contacts: people who know, like and trust you,” Misner advised. “Then, go to the passive contacts: people who know you and might like you. Then, go to the dormant contacts: These are people that knew you, but you’ve lost contact over time. Start with the best connections and work your way down.”

  6. Network in person.
    “Networking is a contact sport. Online is OK, but in person is better,” Misner said, because you make more personal contact by shaking hands or talking over a cup of coffee.

        It’s also a good idea for students to attend functions—whether on         campus or in their community—where they can make connections.

“Networking is more about farming than it is about hunting,” Misner said. “It’s about cultivating relationships.”

Originally Appeared Here