5 Networking Mistakes Even the Smartest Students Make

Sunday, November 21, 2021

October 24, 2018

by Raquel Serrano at WayUp

Going to school isn’t just about gaining an education; it’s also about forming professional relationships that’ll help you carve the path to your dream career. From your first year in college to your last, part of your time as a student should revolve around preparing for your career and making sure to use all of the resources at your disposal. Networking is an essential and integral part of your professional development and definitely shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Even the best students make these gaffes, so let’s go ahead, and get your professional network in tip-top shape by discussing the top 5 mistakes students tend to make.

1. Thinking It’s Way Too Early to Start

A common mistake students make is believing that they need to be juniors or seniors before starting to build their professional networks, but like any relationship in life, the more time you invest into it, the stronger it becomes. As early as your freshman year (if not earlier), you should begin forming a career plan and be on the look-out for opportunities to connect with companies and professionals in your industry.

A great way to get started is by joining a professional organization at your school! Industry-minded organizations such as the ACS (American Chemical Society) and the SEA (Student Education Association) have chapters located in colleges all throughout the country. They host networking events of their own all the time, focusing on providing students of all years with valuable knowledge and connections in their fields. Some may require membership dues (as low as $10/year), but the leverage gained really pays for itself.

It is never too early to go out and gain exposure in the professional world. Show up to events, talk to everyone, be honest about where you currently are, express your interest and stay in touch. A conversation you had your freshman year might score you a job upon graduation.

2. Connecting Only With Students in the Same Major

Some of the greatest collaborations and partnerships known throughout the world began between college friends. It’s a commonly overlooked fact, but you might have a potential business partner sitting in your classroom right now. Start talking to some of your peers, and you might find that your career goals align.

Don’t just focus on connecting with students only in your major, though. Strive for compatibilities, not just similarities, so that you create a wider and more diverse network. If you’re a graphic designer with hopes of creating your own magazine and your roommate is an English major and aspiring editor, keep in touch! These are the times to form those relationships that will help carry your career forwards, so hold them close.

3. Speaking to Professors Only About Grades

Your greatest source of support and connections will sometimes come from the very individuals teaching your classes. Your professors are people who have years of experience and are more than willing to share all of that with you (otherwise they wouldn’t be teaching!).

If you have questions or would like recommendations for graduate programs or professional options, send your professors an email or talk to them after class. Set up a time during their office hours to discuss your career path; they can shed a light on any doubts or concerns you might have.

4. Keeping Circles Local

As a student, it may be tempting to keep your contacts within a few miles outside of your own home or college town, but this isn’t a wise move in the professional world. There are plenty of opportunities available to you beyond your town and state, so don’t be shy about branching out. In this age of social media and the internet, it’s easier than ever; companies located miles away are now only an email or tweet away!

Even if you aren’t contemplating relocating after college, keeping your network wide and open will lessen the risk of you missing out on a great opportunity not only within, but also beyond your own backyard.

5. Failing to Stay in Touch

Once you’ve made a connection with someone, it is essential to keep in contact with them over time, or else that connection will fade. Sending people a quick “hello” or tagging them in a relevant article with a note like “This reminds me of your work” keeps the conversation going even years after you’ve last seen each other. You don’t have to maintain in constant communication with them, but do be present and accessible.

Feel free to reach out for advice or an opinion concerning something relevant; just be sure not to ask for too much or make the conversations all about what they can do for you. Don’t worry if they don’t respond right away; recognize that they may be pretty busy, so remember to be patient. If it’s been some time since you’ve met, begin first by reminding them how you know each other, and always be sure to exercise proper social media and email etiquette in order to keep your communication professional.

So, which of these mistakes are you guilty of? The good news is, it’s never too late to fix any of them. Make the most of your life as a student and set yourself up for even greater success with strong connections and contacts. So, be bold and get that network growing!