Building your social network is an important part of being a college student in the U.S. Networking means creating a support system for both personal and professional development. By networking you can socialize with other international students and get to know university professors.
Whether you are planning to look for a job in the U.S. or back in your home country, networking is an essential part of an effective job search. The term “networking” may sound formal, but it can actually take place anywhere: one-on-one coffee chats, in class, or formal networking events.
But why network?Having a network of professionals you can contact could give you access to a hidden job market. This could give you a big advantage, allowing you to hear about job opportunities before they are even posted online.
How to Build Your Social Network
- Attend international student events (e.g. cultural nights and conferences). These events are a great opportunity to socialize with people from all over the world and get to know people who work on campus or study the same major as you.
- Get involved on and around campus. Finding off-campus activities will help expand your network and improve your English skills.
- Attend seminars specialized in your industry. This is a great way to start developing your professional network. Sometimes, these seminars are located on campus and they are given by your professors, teaching assistants, or mentors. Going to these events could be a good place to find out about internship and job opportunities.
- Create a LinkedIn profile. A polished LinkedIn profile will help you make connections with people in the same industry as you. It also helps you create a professional portfolio where you can share your work experience, education, and job interests. LinkedIn is one of the best social media tools you can use to find a job or internship and get your first interview. Here are some tips.
- Follow your university on social media to find out about different events.
- Reach out to university alumni through your university’s Career Network. Alumni who are still involved are a great source for advice and to help with informational interviews.
- Purpose: Have a specific goal in mind. Use this to find the person or group that could help you achieve it.
- Breaking the Ice*: Sometimes breaking the ice with someone at an event seems difficult. But starting a conversation can be as simple as:
- “What brings you to this event?”
- “Why did you start working for (insert company/group name here)?”
- Career Goals: You should be flexible about how to achieve your goals. You might need to make a list of your career goals and practice talking about them before attending events. Even if they are not clear, networking events can offer you options you didn’t even know existed.
- Follow-Up: You will probably meet and exchange information with a lot of people at networking events. A great idea is to write things down about that person (or your conversation with them) on the back of their business card. After the event, make sure you send them a quick email or letter mentioning something from your conversation.
Networking during your time as a student is essential to having a successful career, not only in the U.S., but anywhere else you decide to look for a job. The world is more interconnected than ever, and even if you are separated by thousands of miles, you never know what those connections can do for you (or what you can do for them).
As an international student, it’s important to take advantage of opportunities to meet people and build your support network. Nowadays, you are more likely to be given a job by someone you know rather than just sending in an application. Building lasting relationships during college can help you develop professionally and help you achieve your goals.
Try some of these tips at your next college event and let us know how it goes by leaving a comment below or tagging us on Instagram (@epro360scholarships)!
* To break the ice: to make people who have never met before feel relaxed and comfortable with each other.