How To Network In College: 5 Uncommon Strategies Any Student Can Use To Skyrocket Their Career [FAST]
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How To Network In College: 5 Uncommon Strategies Any Student Can Use To Skyrocket Their Career [FAST]

By Brandon Fong | Career

How To Network In College: 5 Uncommon Strategies Any Student Can Use To Skyrocket Their Career [FAST]

If you’re here right now, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the typical networking advice given to every college student:

You should start networking!

Remember, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know!

It’s never too late to start networking!

Okay, okay already... we get it.

Networking is important.

But exactly how do you network in college?

Even if you search online, most resources will encourage you to...

  • Do an internship
  • Talk to recent graduates
  • Use LinkedIn

... yada yada.

While those are great suggestions, there aren’t many resources that break down the networking process step by step.

In this article, we’re going to get specific.

You’ll learn:

  1. Why most people’s idea of networking is completely wrong (and how that hurts them)
  2. The most important networking strategy that few students take advantage of
  3. Exact Email Scripts You Can Use To Make People WANT To Help You
  4. How to crush the meetings that you set up with people
  5. How to use The “Linkedin Multiplication Strategy” To Exponentially Increase The Amount Of High Quality People You’ll Meet 

Ready?

Let’s dive in.

Why Most Students’ Idea Of Networking Is Completely Wrong (And How That Hurts Them)

Before we dive into the strategies for how to network in college, let’s take a second to clear out any preconceptions you may have about networking to begin with.

When I think of the word “networking” I don’t get positive vibes — and I’m guessing you don’t either.

When I think of networking, I think of a bunch of people in suits in a bar with pockets stuffed with business cards, all trying to further their own agendas.

That’s gross, and there’s a reason why many people don’t like events like that.

So it’s no wonder why, when people are advised to “network,” the typical reaction is to get overwhelmed and not do anything.

Let’s change that.

Instead of thinking about networking as some formal event, think about it as building quality relationships. That’s it.

Joe Polish, the founder of Genius Network and one of the world’s most well connected people, has 7 important lessons about networking that can and will help you dramatically as you build quality relationships.

Here they are:

Here are 7 important lessons about networking:

  1. The way you meet famous people is the same way you meet anybody. You go into the relationship being a giver, not a taker.
  2. If you want long, sustaining relationships, you need to be in the relationship business – not the transaction business. This means you go into relationships being genuinely helpful.
  3. Do research on what is important to the other person.
  4. Time is not money. I’ve never woken up in the morning and next to an alarm clock was a pile of money. The truth is relationships are money. Money is found within relationships. Connections to jobs and opportunities are all done through other individuals.
  5. Don’t expect anything to be given to you without creating value first. Never feel entitled to anything unless you create value for somebody first. You need what Dan Sullivan, the founder of Strategic Coach, calls a ‘No Entitlement Attitude’. Money earned ethically is a by-product of value creation.
  6. There are plenty of opportunities. You simply need to position yourself mentally, physically and emotionally to be prepared to take those opportunities on and do something with them.
  7. Whenever you connect with anyone of value, ask yourself: “How can I add value to this person’s life?”

So there you have it.

Networking is NOT about attending career fairs or “networking events.”

Sure, you can find some quality connections at those places, but that’s not what networking is.

Networking is about being a giver and adding value.

Now that we understand that, let’s cover four more actionable strategies you can use to network in college while you are in college to set you up for success in the “real world”.

How To Network In College Like a Pro: The Most Important Strategy That Few Students Take Advantage Of

Believe it or not, there is an insanely effective strategy that you can ONLY use when you are still in school.

The day you graduate, you can no longer use it — so take advantage of it while you can!

I call it:

The Cute Student Card.

What is the cute student card?

I’m glad you asked!

So here’s the deal:

Compared with a working professional, you have an impressive track record of little experience, little hours spent working in your field, and few credentials to demonstrate your expertise.

What leverage do you have to connect with influential people?

You have the power of vulnerability.

This is why I call this strategy “Pulling the Cute Student Card” – because it relies on you being young and not having that much experience.

You’re going to play the role of an ambitious student who is fighting for what they want in life. This takes you far.

Successful professionals love to invest their time where they can see their work having an impact. If they have an opportunity to give back their knowledge to an eager student, they usually will.

How To Network In College Quick Recap

The Cute Student Card leverages the fact that you are “just a student” to connect with people that you look up to.

This works so well because they empathize with your situation and want to give back. Chances are, they’ll give you more time than they would to a normal working professional! 

Now this is the part where I give you super actionable next steps you can take to put this in action.

How exactly do you “pull the cute student card”?

Well the first thing we have to do is to find the people we want to connect with.

The first place I usually turn is LinkedIn’s advanced search filter.

While most people aren’t aware of this, LinkedIn’s advanced search filter is one of the most powerful features the platform has.

Here’s how to use it:

First, click in the search bar and you’ll have a menu drop down. Click “people.”

Then, click “all filters”.

From here, a menu will pop up that looks like this:

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Here are two of the most powerful searches you can make using the LinkedIn advanced search filter:

​Search #1 — Successful Alumni in Your Industry

One of the lowest hanging fruits to connect with professionals is tapping into your alumni network. With this search that I’m about to show you, you’ll immediately find people who went to your university, are working in the industry you want to attend, and have a high level position.

Under the “Schools” search filter, add the university you attend. Then, under the “Industries” section, add the industry you’d like to work in. Lastly, under “Title” try searching for things like “VP”, “CEO”, or “President”.

For another variation of this search, you can also put a specific company you have in mind instead of the industry.

​Search #2 — Successful Professionals In Your Local Area

If you’d like to reach out to some people that aren’t alumni, your next best bet is going to be to search for professionals in your industry that are in your local area.

Under the “Locations” filter, put the biggest city near you. Then, just like last time, you can use either the “industries” section or a specific company that they work for to narrow down the results. Again, you can add titles to find people that are higher up if you’d like.

After you’ve identified the people that you want to connect with, your next step is to, well, connect!

Just please make sure that when you connect on LinkedIn, you take the time to write a customized connection request.

If you just send them a connection, the default message they will receive is “I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” or no message at all.

Sending these standard connection requests is an indication that you don’t care about them enough to take 2 minutes to write them a personalized reason why you wanted to connect.

Simply explain what you admire about their profile and why you thought connecting would be a good idea.

There you have it!

If you were to ask me the ONE tip I’d give to people if they asked me how to network in college, it would be this — so make sure you use it!

In the next section, you’ll learn exactly what to say when you reach out to them to schedule a meeting.

Exact Email Scripts You Can Use To Make People WANT To Help You

Now that you’ve identified a few people you want to reach out to, your next step is to reach out to them!

After they’ve approved your connection request on LinkedIn, you can send them a private message to ask them to meet with you.

If you’d rather not use LinkedIn, you can also search their profile for their email address:

If their email isn’t listed on their LinkedIn profile, you can use tools like Find That Lead and Hunter.io to find their email using their company’s website.

Easy!

Now, what exactly should you say to reach out to them?

I’ve already covered some of my top email scripts in my How To Ask Someone To Be Your Mentor Post, but for your convenience, I’ve listed them below:

Email To Alumni From Your School:

Subject: Quick question from a fellow [insert school mascot here]

Hello NAME!

Earlier this week, I was looking for some successful alumni from [SCHOOL] and your name came up.

[Give them a specific compliment as to why you thought they would be good to reach out to]

Besides just wanting to reach out and tell you how impressed I was, I do have a quick question:

I’m currently a [MAJOR] major and in a perfect world, I’d graduate and end up in a position similar to yours.

I graduate in [GRADUATION MONTH AND YEAR] and I have a few ideas that I think would help me achieve that outcome.

However, I’m confident that running my ideas by you could potentially save me months of my time and help me to achieve my goals after I graduate. I have a few very specific questions.

Would you be willing to give me some feedback?

-Your Name

The “would you be willing to give me some feedback?” question is great for two reasons:

  1. It’s an easy yes/no answer for them and very clear how they need to respond
  2. It’s a low commitment question (you’re not asking for a phone call or a meeting at this point)

Those two points make this email very easy to respond to and get some momentum going for them to agree to a phone call.

So when they respond to that email saying they’d be willing to give you some feedback, you can respond using this template:

FIRST NAME-

Thank you for getting back to me!

I understand that you are very busy and I want to be respectful of your time.

I have a few very specific questions I’d like to ask you and I think the best way to get those questions answered would be to hop on a quick 15-20 minute phone call.

Are you free on [SPECIFIC DATE AND TIME] to talk?

I’m flexible and can adjust to your schedule.

If you’d rather not do a phone call, I’d be happy to send you my questions and you can answer when convenient.

Please let me know what you prefer, and thank you so much!

-YOUR NAME

Email To Local Professionals

​Subject: [Name of your university] student — your LinkedIn profile stood out

Hi [NAME]-

Earlier this week, I came across your LinkedIn profile and knew I HAD to reach out.

[Give them a specific compliment as to why you thought they would be good to reach out to]

My name is [YOUR NAME — link your name to your LinkedIn profile] and I’m a [YOUR MAJOR] student at [YOUR UNIVERSITY].

In a perfect world, I’d graduate and end up in a position similar to yours.

I graduate in [GRADUATION MONTH AND YEAR] and I have a few ideas that I think would help me achieve that outcome.

However, I’m confident that running my ideas by you could potentially save me months of my time and help me to achieve my goals after I graduate.

Would you be willing to give me some feedback?

-Your Name

You’ll notice here that this script is very similar to the one designed to be sent to college alumni.

The follow up after that email will be exactly the same.

Please note that sometimes you may have to follow up on these two scripts.

People are busy, and sometimes they won’t respond on the first or second try!

If you’re not following up, you’ll miss out on all of your work thus far.

But once you land the meeting with them, what’s next?

Crush The Meeting

Alright, now that we’ve secured the meeting, we’re ready to move onto one of the final steps of learning how to network in college:

How to crush it with your new quality contact when you talk to them.

So, once you get on the call (or meet up with them in person, if that option was available), what’s supposed to happen?

Well first of all, YOU were the one that reached out for the meeting.

Therefore, YOU are the one that has to lead the meeting.

Don’t just show up unprepared and expect it to turn into something valuable.

Instead, use these tips to increase the likelihood that your meeting is a success:

Tip #1: Do Research On Them Ahead Of Time

Before meeting up, take some time to go through their ENTIRE LinkedIn profile to learn about them and their career trajectory. Also keep in mind that LinkedIn is not your only resource here.

You can also leverage their personal website, their employer’s website, or even their Facebook page if it has relevant information.

As you go through their online presence, make sure to write down any SPECIFIC questions that you have which would be beneficial for you.

While it’s good to ask some broader questions throughout your meeting, the more specific you can get the better.

Tip #2: Overcome The Two Barriers They Have In Their Mind

When someone agrees to get on a phone call or meet with a stranger, two main things are going through their mind:

  • Are they trying to sell me something?
  • Is this going to be a total waste of my time?

Most people just learning how to network in college let people ask themselves those questions up until the minute they get on the phone.

But you’re not going to do that. Instead of keeping them in the dark, you’re going to create an agenda ahead of time showing that you’re thoughtful and professional.

After you’ve done your research on the person and generated some questions to ask them, I recommend sending them an email with your agenda.

Again, this gives people peace of mind that you’re actually going to get results from your time with them, and shows them that you’re the real deal.

Trust me, people love it. 

Tip #3: Make Sure To Leave With ACTION Items

The key to...

  1. Making the person you reached out to feel like their time was valued
  2. Developing a long term relationship with them that might lead to phenomenal opportunities

... is leaving your meeting with specific advice that you can take action on.

Why?

Because, believe it or not, most people don’t actually follow through on things.

Here’s an example of a really good question you can use within your agenda that makes it impossible for you NOT to get clear action items:

I am [CURRENT LIFE SITUATION]. Right now my plan is to:

[PROJECT #1 YOU ARE ALREADY WORKING ON]
[PROJECT #2 YOU ARE ALREADY WORKING ON]

Knowing what you know now and knowing my objectives, if you were in my shoes, what would be your “Game plan”? Specifically, what would you avoid doing, and what would you focus more on?

By getting clear action items from them, you set yourself up for success with the next tip.

Tip #4: Follow Up With Your Results

After you’ve completed the meeting and used your pre-prepared agenda, the real work begins.

First of all, within 24 hours of your first meeting, take the time to send them a thank you email.

In that email, make sure to include your biggest takeaways from your time with them and what you plan on implementing right away.

Then, your job is to go out and EXECUTE on the action items you received from the meeting.

Any time you see results from taking action on their suggestions, make sure to follow up with them and let them know how grateful you are. 

Use The “Linkedin Multiplication Strategy” To Exponentially Increase The Amount Of High Quality People You’ll Meet

Want to get even MORE value from your time with your new contact?

Use the LinkedIn Multiplication Strategy.

I learned this from my good friend and LinkedIn expert, Wayne Breitbarth, and it. Is. BRILLIANT!

It goes like this:

Before your meeting with them, head back to LinkedIn’s advanced search filter.

This time around, you’re going to use a new filter you haven’t used before called “connections of”:

In that box, put the name of the person that you’re about to meet with.

Then, LinkedIn will automatically pull all the connections of that person!

Next, start using the filters that we discussed before (location, industry, school, etc.) to narrow down the search to just a few people that might actually be interesting for you to be connected with.

Now here’s where it gets super ninja.

At the end of a meeting, many people will ask a question like this:

Now that you know what I’m trying to accomplish, is there anyone else you’d be willing to connect me with that might be able to help?

The problem with this question is two-fold:

  1. Nobody likes being asked this question
  2. There is a very low likelihood that it will actually lead to them actually connecting you with anyone

But with the LinkedIn Multiplication Technique, you can overcome those two main problems.

How?

Well, when you do the search mentioned above, you should find 1-3 people you’d be interested in connecting with.

Then, at the end of your meeting, you can say something like this:

I found these 5 people that you’re connected with on LinkedIn — can we just chat about them for a second?

After they say yes, ask them these questions in order:

  1. Do you know them? (Not everyone knows the people in their network well enough to refer you)
  2. Do you think they would be interested in hearing about how I might be able to help them? (You’re trying to find out if your connection knows them well enough to know their level of interest in what you do)
  3. Can I use your name and our relationship when I reach out to them? (This is getting their permission to name drop)

If you get “Yes” or “You bet” to all three questions, then go ahead, reach out and try to start a new relationship by referring to your mutual connection.

And there you have it:

Not only have you secured an incredible meeting with someone you respect, but you’ve left with helpful action items AND other people to connect with.

Pretty cool, eh?

How To Network In College Conclusion & Your Next Steps

Whew.

We covered A LOT in this post.

So far, we’ve already discussed:

  1. Why most students’ idea of networking is completely wrong (building quality relationships > collecting business cards)
  2. The most important college networking strategy you can use (the cute student card)
  3. How to use LinkedIn’s advanced search filter to find incredible people to connect with
  4. The exact email scripts you can use to reach out
  5. How to crush your meeting with the people you reach out to
  6. How to use the “LinkedIn Multiplication Strategy” to 5x the amount of quality people you can meet

But, believe it or not, this is just the beginning.

Why do I say that?

Because at the end of the day, most big successes you have in life are going to be directly related to the kind of people you connect with.

If you can consistently learn how to build relationships with quality people, there is literally no goal you can’t accomplish.

BUT...

There is one more big thing that will really help you take things to the next level:

Learning how to connect with the ultra successful.

Think about this for a second:

How much would your life change if you had direct access to the people you look up to?

Just imagine...

  • Whatever roadblock you encountered...
  • Whatever question you had...
  • Whatever setback you faced...

... you’d have them right by your side to help you accomplish your most ambitious goals.

If you’re ready to grow EXPONENTIALLY, learning how to connect with and learn directly from the people you admire most is key.

If you're looking for a next step for this, make sure to check out my mentorship post!

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