Networking sounds like a very overused professional word. Maybe you picture people in suits running around collecting business cards. Maybe you think it’s something you do once you’re in college or when you start a job someday.
Well, that someday is now! It’s never too early to start building a team of friends, family and adults who can guide, advise and inform you on applying to college, looking for jobs, and contemplating different career paths as you get older. We all have goals for the future, right? The question is how do we reach them aside from just getting good grades? There are lots of steps involved in getting to where you want and it all starts with creating and building relationships—now. That’s what networking really is. It’s giving people the opportunity to get to know you better and, in turn, allowing you to learn from others.
For some, going up to a stranger and asking for advice or help is enough to send you back to bed with the covers over your face! No way - not doing it! The thing is, you are probably already networking and don’t even know it. Think about it: you probably already have a group of friends, parents, guardians, teachers, or friends of friends that you like and respect. These people are your core network. Yay, you’ve got a network already!!! Great, let’s expand that circle!
Ok......ummmmm....now what? Here are some great ways to widen your network:
Tip #1: Get involved in activities or organizations outside of school.
What are your passions? What speaks to you in terms of helping out others? Do you love animals? Do you want to give back to your community? Volunteering is a great way to build relationships and help others. Commit to doing something once a month, if possible. Explore community activities, libraries, animal shelters, volunteer opportunities, etc.
Tip #2: Search out clubs in school and get involved.
What is going on in school that seems fun? Are there leadership clubs, fundraising, event planning councils, dance groups? It’s a great way to meet people outside of your group of friends, which leads me to...
Tip #3: Reach out to students outside of your group.
This might seem scary, but it’s easier than you think. Say hi to someone in your class who is shy or introverted. Say something nice to a student who has gotten up in class to give a report. Encourage other students to join your group at lunch. First off, this is a super nice thing to do, but it will also help you build your own courage. Being popular is fun, but being well liked by a diverse group of friends is much more important as you go off into the world.
Tip #4: Parents and guardians are a great resource for networking!
Adults LOVE to give advice! Are their jobs interesting to you? Do they work with people who are involved in a job that seems interesting to you? Do they have advice on how to approach people? What have they learned on their road? How do they push past their fears?
Tip #5: Informational Interviewing FTW!
Information interviewing is an amazing way of expanding your knowledge and relationships! Do you know of an adult/parent/friend of parent in a job you find interesting who might be willing to talk to you about what they do? Ask them if they have 15 minutes to talk. Everyone has 15 minutes to talk to the younger generation! Create a list of questions for them like: What do they love and not love about their work? How did they get into their field? What is their biggest challenge? What is a typical day like for them? What advice can they give you in high school?
In short: be awesome, build courage, develop confidence and start building your TEAM!