3 Networking Secrets for College Freshmen

When I started college, I expected many changes in my life: more freedom, more advanced classes, new friends, and so on. What I didn’t know about was the huge number of opportunities to meet accomplished professionals and learn about their different industries that college events would bring me. After attending some of these events and meeting some amazing representatives from different companies, I’ve picked up some interesting insights:

1. Be an early bird.

I was part of a committee that planned a networking dinner, and for this event, we invited company representatives to eat a formal sit-down dinner with students. One of our responsibilities was to make sure that the reps were comfortable—after all, they were kind enough to come out and talk to our members—and part of this meant keeping the reps company before the attendees’ arrival. From this responsibility, I actually started enjoying approaching reps before the room was jam-packed and I had to wait my turn to talk to them. The conversations then were always more relaxed, since there wouldn’t be a line of students waiting their turn to talk. I always walked out of those conversations feeling that I had really connected to the rep.

Alternatively, at career fairs or panels, I like approaching reps who currently idle, even if I am not especially interested in their company. After all, if they are bored and you don’t have anything else to do in particular, you may as well learn more about their companies and jobs.

2. Mind your peers.

After events with networking, I have had friends who also attended the event come up to me and grumble about some overly aggressive jerk who had hijacked all the conversations with the company reps. While it is certainly not the best behavior to gossip about other people behind their backs, this is human behavior that does happen and conversation dominators can be very frustrating for many people.

There are immediate benefits of having more talking time with the rep, but you might risk alienating your peers. You should actually be connecting with peers as well; they can provide valuable advice or even pass down job opportunities, and most importantly, they are potential great friends and allies. If you find that you are accidentally hogging the rep, try to include others in the conversation by simply stepping back to let them in the circle or addressing them in your conversation.

 3.  Set the tone.

After speaker panel sessions, there is often a rush up to the front of the room to talk to the company representatives. While in line to talk to the reps, I have overheard a lot of conversations that start with, “Hey, so do you guys offer any internships?” While a very pertinent question to ask—chances are, everyone is thinking it—it never seemed to be a great conversation starter to me. Reps are generally very nice about it and will oblige you with the requested information. But at that point, the conversation becomes steered towards questions along the line of: “So, you’re looking for an internship?” or “What kinds of positions are you interested in?” The whole mood of the conversation ends up being job-focused.

There is nothing wrong with that, but I have found that I connect better to reps when the conversation starts off on a more personal tone, and that I do not connect as well when I place myself into the role of ‘avid job-hunter’ from the very start. Consider asking questions about the company, the rep’s background, what advice the rep can offer someone of your specific background, etc. Or mention interesting things you learned from the speaker panel and why those relate to you personally.

For additional career tips for current college students, visit flipdigest.

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Tina Tseng

Tina Tseng

Tina Tseng is a first year intended business and media studies student who contributes to flipdigest. Flipdigest is a new career advice website based out of UC Berkeley and catered towards college students. Check it out at Flip Digest.
Tina Tseng

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