Networking Like a Boss: How Your Connections Determine Your College and Career
Many Students Tend To Associate The Word “Networking” With Only The Professional Workplace...
Maybe to you, networking in high school seems pointless. However, networking is the kind of thing that builds up over time. The earlier you start, the more connections you’ll have when you’re looking for employment, and the greater chances you’ll have of landing a really great job in your field. Not only that, but your network can help you get into college too!
Networking in high school teaches you the necessary skills for networking in the workplace like approaching strangers, being kind, keeping your social circles wide open, and trying new experiences. All of these are vital to your success in the job hunt and college applications. Luckily, high school is the perfect environment to try all these methods, so keep reading to learn about why networking will get you further than you thought was possible!
What You’ll Find In This Article:
- The Value of a Network
- How to Build Your Network
- Best Practices While Networking as a High School Student
- Networking As An Art
The Value Of A Network
If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “It’s all about who you know” or “It’s all about connections”, then you already know why having a robust network is so valuable.
In many career fields, CEOs and executives will hire people for open positions after they conduct a series of interviews. However, applicants will have a significantly higher chance of landing the job if they have strong connections and a wide network. The basis of a network is very simple; think about major social media sites with friends and followers. This is a good example of a virtual network, and an in-person network is not very different.
By having multiple connections from many different friend groups, it won’t take long for you to be the friend of a friend of a friend, and suddenly have a reason to introduce yourself to the hiring manager of that company you’ve had your eye on for a while. Connections are absolutely essential for every workforce, and the best time to start building this network is during high school.
Your network isn’t just reserved for your professional career connections either. While it seems like this time in your life isn’t for another few years, it will actually be here sooner than you think. The action you take now will dictate your success when the time comes for you to focus on your career.
The network you build in high school will affect your college opportunities, as well. Imagine this scenario: if you make a new friend from a group that you’ve never hung out with before, and you find out that their parents are notable alumni from your dream school, that would be a fantastic connection. You could bring up the topic over dinner at your new friend’s house, and now, not only do you have a potential alumni interview set in place, but your college application will have a notable name attached to it that will make admissions officers look twice.
Networking has a ripple effect; one connection always leads to 10 more. If each of the connections you make lead to 10 more, you’re looking at having a network of hundreds of people that can vouch for your work ethic, friendliness, and eagerness to grow.
How To Build Your Network
Networks are essential to your future college and career connections. So, how do you start building one? For introverts, building a network can seem like a daunting task, but don’t panic. Networking isn’t all about going up to strangers and talking a lot; it’s all about building small, positive habits that slowly make connections and ultimately build a working network.
A great place to start is with your immediate circle of interactions. Whether that means your parents or your best friends, start participating in outings or activities that you would otherwise say “no” to.
Networking is all about going a little bit outside your comfort zone and trying new things, even at the risk of you potentially being bad at it. Overcoming this fear of trying new things will help you grow leaps and bounds in making connections; being okay with failing at a new activity will help you take yourself a little less seriously. Students who take themselves too seriously oftentimes have a habit of isolating themselves. Sometimes, they’re unwilling to meet new people because they’re convinced that they already know what they’re doing.
Learning how to take yourself a little less seriously will also help you overcome the common anxiety and shyness that often comes with being forward and taking the initiative with other people. If you’re wondering where you can start building your network, here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- What new school groups can you get involved with that will expand your connections?
- What new friends can you make?
- Is there a certain activity you’ve been wanting to try?
- Is there room in your schedule for a fun and social elective class? (Ex. shop, pottery, home economics, theater, music, etc.)
- Is there anything in your schedule that you can do without? By ridding your schedule of unnecessary activities, you’ll open up more time for you to try new things.
Best Practices When Networking As A High School Student
Once you understand how a network is built and where you need to start, you can begin employing some simple habits into your networking plan. With these simple tricks, you’ll start to notice that your network will begin building itself.
This is probably the most important and effective tool that will fuel your growing network. Kind people are naturally attractive to other people, and other people will feel drawn to you because kindness is always associated with being non-judgmental. A great quote that has helped a lot of people employ simple, genuine kindness into their daily lives is by prolific poet, writer, and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou:
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Think about how your responses and mannerisms to your peers make them feel, and start from there to start being kind and respectful to everyone you come in contact with. Think about how people will remember you; if your legacy in high school is tainted with negative thoughts, resentment, or grudges, your network may still grow, but not with any positive connotations. In turn, this could work against you one day, and make it nearly impossible to build effective career connections.
In every person you meet and have a conversation with, even if it’s a small and seemingly meaningless discussion, strive to treat them with empathy and understanding. Also, don’t limit yourself by being pre-judgmental of people; just because someone doesn’t seem worth your time doesn’t always mean you’re right about them. You never know where a certain connection could lead you one day, whether that’s a job offer or simply a valuable friendship.
Of course, don’t treat everyone as if they’re connections to help your network grow. It’s good to have the thought of your network in the back of your mind, but the more that you genuinely want to meet people and be their friend, the more effective the process will be. Don’t worry about your network; if you’re authentic, kind, and empathetic, your network will build itself while you’re out there being an all-around wonderful person to be around.
JOIN AN ORGANIZATION
If you struggle with putting yourself out there and trying new things, this step could take some more time than others, but that’s okay. Start small, and work your way up as you get more comfortable with the idea of stepping outside of your comfort zone.
The best way to make a bunch of new friends at once is to join a club, a student organization, or a sport! Working towards a goal with other people creates the deepest friendships because you learn about things like social conflict and disagreements in a safe and healthy atmosphere.
Pick an activity you think you’ll enjoy or you’ve been wanting to try for a long time. Make it as interesting or unique as you want, and if it’s difficult at first, that’s good! Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s bad; hard isn’t bad, hard is just hard.
The more you attach a positive attitude to difficult things, the much better off you’ll be in the future. Think of hard things as a chance for you to grow and be more approachable by other people. Failure is a gift both to yourself and others because it drops whatever seriousness you’re holding onto, and it lets other people know that it’s okay to fail, too.
GET A JOB
A great use of time during high school is getting a part-time job; you can make money while making new friends through your co-workers and discovering what it’s like to work in a business environment.
Having a job during high school will teach you important things like prioritizing responsibilities, personal finance, and responsibility. Too many students don’t get this kind of experience until after college, so get ahead of the game and try finding a part-time job that you’ll enjoy.
In addition to making some money that you can put towards college and making connections through your co-workers, you’ll also be doing wonders for your future college and career connections. A job looks great on a resume, and you can obtain a valuable letter of recommendation from your boss.
Many young adults today have a hard time securing a job because they don’t have enough prior work experience; their resumes are basically empty and they have no previous bosses to vouch for them. Getting a job will give you a solid foundation to show future employers and increase your chances of landing a professional job!
CONSIDER AN INTERNSHIP
Internships are fantastic sources for students wanting more experience in a very specific field like journalism, graphic design, or recording music. For jobs like these, you need to have certain skills and knowledge to thrive in that industry. Very rarely can you even qualify for a job interview without having prior knowledge of the field you want to go into. So, if you’re interested in a career that requires a special skill, consider applying for internships during high school. Many internships for high school students are unpaid, but that’s because they require little to no experience; all they require is that you have a strong interest in that field.
Internships will open up a world of connections for you through other interns, your bosses, and potential clients. By obtaining an experience like this one during high school, you’ll be accomplishing the many components of the networking process all at once. You now have co-interns to stay connected with, a supervisor who can write a letter of recommendation for you, and a unique skill that qualifies you for job opportunities in that field.
MOVE BEYOND HIGH SCHOOL
This last component of networking can seem tricky at first, especially since most students find themselves basically living at their high school due to their heavy involvement. This would be a great time for you to look at your schedule and identify what is essential and non-essential; if you’re overloaded at school, you could quickly become burnt out or overwhelmed, so consider dropping some non-essential classes or groups.
Above all, make sure that you have a life outside of high school.
If your involvement at school is already heavy, try joining outside groups or clubs instead of organizations at your school. This will get you off campus and help you make connections in new places. Research local nonprofit organizations that need volunteers; for example, animal shelters, nursing homes, and donation centers. Consider getting involved at these places with your friends, too! You’d be surprised how much fun community service can be when you do it with your friend group.
Joining outside activities like this will provide you with connections similar to having an internship or job; more than likely, you’ll have a supervisor or fellow volunteers. Also, don’t discredit simple connections like neighbors, your parent’s friends that stop by your house every once in a while, or your friend’s parents. Everyone is valuable, and they should be valuable to you!
Networking As An Art
Networking truly is an art form; connections are so valuable and they often build off of each other, creating a ripple effect. To start building your network, the best place to start is with yourself. Understand the areas of your life where you hesitate to try new things and meet new people. Identify those feelings, and work to overcome your anxiety. The more you get comfortable with trying difficult things, the more freed up you’ll be to make countless friends and build a truly remarkable network.
Consider everything from how you interact with people to any new activities you’ve been wanting to try. Think about dropping some non-essential activities from your schedule so you can get a part-time job or an internship. Don’t rob yourself of having plenty of experiences in high school by suffering from burnout!
As you start this process, feel free to reach out to any of WeAdmit’s professional counselors. We can provide you with any insight that will help you get to building your network, making your connections, and ultimately, creating a solid foundation to enter the workplace with.
Networking is possible, even for the introvert. As long as you start establishing healthy habits into your interactions with others, you’ll watch your network grow before your eyes.
Get Out There And Start Building Your Network!
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