When you see the word “networking” you may not be overly excited to read this article. And how could you when even the Cambridge dictionary defines “networking” as “the activity of meeting people who might be useful to know, especially in your job“. I honestly have no idea what I would like to do after my studies. But what if I told you that if done right, networking can be the key to all your dreams. You don’t believe me? Then you may be more in need of this article than you think.
Perhaps you thought that networking is a rather business thing to do. And while this is not wrong, the opportunities networking holds are infinite and beneficiary to anyone. To be able to understand this, we will first need to break down what networking actually entails. In a nutshell, a social network is made up of a group of people connected through some commonality. Such as the friend group you made through your study program. Networking on the other hand is when you actively connect with a person and therefore also, your own network with that of this person. This results in a broad and intertwined web of connections, similar to the cover picture of this article. Maybe you have come to realise by now, that you yourself know people and thus, naturally have your own network. But if everyone passively forms networks why is it so important then to actively do so?
Networking Builds Connections
By now it shouldn’t be a surprise to you that networking builds connections. The difference is that it is up to you which type of connections you form. While everyone has a naturally formed network, many people are not aware of the power they hold over this network. For example, if you know that you would like to work at Apple one day, then you have the power to reach out to friends and family and their networks to connect with a person that works there. It is up to you, to contact this person directly and connect your own network with that of this person. While this may seem rather far outside of your comfort zone, this example highlights that perhaps you have been rather passive in the formation of your own network. Don’t worry this is not life-threatening. But it surely holds you back from opportunities that could change your life.
Networking Opens Doors
WHO you know can often lead to unexpected opportunities.
Let’s say you overcome your insecurity and do reach out to this person working at Apple. It could lead you to an internship possibility, a direct insight into how it is to work at Apple, an inspiring conversation with a professional from the field, or simply no response. What I am trying to emphasize is that there is nothing you can lose in networking. And this does not solely hold for your career path, but also for deciding where to go for your master, whom to quickly get a bike from after the third one has been stolen within a month (sadly true :D), and as probably most can relate to when being on the hunt for a new room. WHO you know can often lead to unexpected opportunities.
The amazing thing is that even though you might be on your laptop right now reading this article, your friends may have connected with a new person and simultaneously enlarged your own network this way. And if you do actively connect with people that for example work at Apple, then the new connections you gain passively are also more likely to fit this profile. Your network then not only grows while you are passive, but it also increases the opportunity to reach your goal while simply doing nothing. But don’t worry if you do not have a certain goal yet. What is most important in networking is realizing the possibilities a mere connection with a stranger can hold. How did you for example gain the friend that connected you to this one person at Apple? Maybe it was someone you worked with in a café, someone you know from your childhood, a neighbour, or simply someone you are studying with. We never know the entire network of people around us and we certainly will never know what these networks will be like in the future. Thus, even if you do not have a certain goal, it is important to network and grow one’s connections. Because one day there may be a goal or dream and the bigger your network, the more likely you are connected to someone who may be able to help you reach that dream.
Networking during Corona
Corona may be a tempting excuse to push networking off. But what if I told you that right now is the best time to network? We are studying with over 35000 other students with whom we share just that commonality. And we may never be in such a big network ever again. While networking during corona may seem daunting, there are plenty of options to do so. Here are five tips to get you started:
– Join a study association
– Work with new people during group assignments
– Befriend people from your study on Facebook and LinkedIn
– Ask someone in your tutorial to meet for a walk outside (adhering to the corona rules of course)
– Be active in the WhatsApp groups of your study program
Most definitely you will win much more than possible future opportunities. Perhaps you even find true friendship in times of isolation. What are you waiting for?
And to kick this off, feel free to reach out to me on Facebook or LinkedIn.
Cover: Omar Flores