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By Molly Carr of  Oregon Family Magazine Account Team 

Once you step on a college campus and begin thinking about your career, there is one word you consistently hear: network. That word can be very daunting to those who are already in the professional world, but it is especially intimidating to undergraduates. However, now is the time to jump-start your career. 

Most people when they get to college start with one major and then change it one or maybe two times. This is because you are learning more about yourself, thinking about where you see yourself in the future. Networking is a great way to answer any questions you have about the career path you are on with your certain major. What are people doing in the professional world that majored in public relations? Networking will help you figure that out. 

Networking is the first step into the professional world. It creates opportunities to pursue professions you didn’t even know existed. Speaking to just one person can open your eyes into something you might find you are really passionate about. 

Networking is such a broad topic. Everyone talks about it, but nobody tells you how to do it, the “do’s and don’ts'” of the trade.  

Here are some tips to use when building your network:

Connect With People Around You 

Reach out to people you already know. This could be faculty members, parents, and friends. Tell them about your interests, because you never know who they might be able to put you in contact with. Search up alumni who went to your university, because this connection mutual will give you a good place to start when reaching out. Join organizations on campus; these organizations will give you a larger network. Joining an organization allows you to reach a larger group of people and talk to peers that have the same interests as you. That is where you can begin to meet connections. Don’t be afraid to reach out; people want to help you succeed.

Use Social Media

Everyone and everything is on social media like Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Use these platforms to your advantage. LinkedIn is a great way to initiate a relationship with professionals. Being able to connect with professionals in your desired industry is a great way to learn and build a network.  You can also follow companies in industries you wish to work for in the future. 

In our day in age, almost everything is online. Learn how to use those devices to your advantage. Especially when trying to connect with recent graduates. They know all about these forms of social media. When learning how to set it up, you can ask a school adviser r. They know how to get you started, and they know what a professional page should look like. 

Going along with that, it is important to keep your social media appropriate. Employers do look at what you post online. According to Business News Daily, “70% of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process, and about 43% of employers use social media to check on current employees.” 

Build a Relationship 

Networking isn’t always about finding someone who can give you your dream job. It can also help you to build real connections and mutually beneficial relationships. That connection will build a better relationship and eventually, you will be able to ask for opportunities. 

Trying to figure out when the right time is to ask about opportunities such as internships can be tricky. However, building the relationship allows for more of an open dialogue. Be professional when asking about opportunities, and don’t expect something grand. As a college student, you might not be able to offer them something in return, but they know that. They will respect that you got to know them before asking what they can do for you. 

One way to start a good relationship is to ask for an informational interview. This interview gives you the opportunity to ask any questions. It also tells the professionals that you care about what they do, not just what they have to offer. The interview gets your foot in the door and will allow for open communication between the employer and you. US News Weekly said, “Even when someone in your network wants to be helpful to you, recognize that what you can ask depends on the depth of your relationship. The closer you are to someone, the more you might be able to expect.” 

Finally, be confident. Speaking with confidence changes the way people will look at you. You have the skills you need, just put them to work.