By Daniel Black
I can’t stress enough the importance of building, maintaining and pursuing new relationships while you’re in college. Unlike high school and the years that come before it, your core focus throughout your college years should be to prepare yourself for the professional world that awaits you. While critical thinking development, self reflection and expanding your knowledge base are without a doubt, essential elements of the college experience, too often do students overlook the importance of strengthening, expanding and investing in the notion of social capital.
When I speak of building relationships, I’m referring to a wide range of relationship types. Whereas friendships are extremely important, they should only make up a portion of your overall social pie. As you make the transition into the professional world, your ability to be successful will often correlate with your ability to build and develop effectively/efficiently your network.
- On-campus Clubs, Resources, Organizations & Associations
- Career Services and Parents & Alumni Relations
- Off-campus Organizations & Associations
- Professors & Faculty
- Extended Family
- Alumni Network
- Family Friends
- Job Fairs
Fortunately, relationship management in the digital age is far more efficient than ever before due to the wide range of software and social platforms available. While Facebook is the clear market leader in social media, I do not recommend using Facebook to build your professional network. Instead, be sure your privacy settings are heavy and only accept friend requests from those you know well and want to keep in touch with on a more personal level.
Linkedin is the “world’s largest professional network.” If you have not done so already, be sure to sign up with Linkedin and invest substantial time in developing your professional profile; it will be one of your greatest assets as you transition into the real world. Once you’re comfortable with the quality of your overall profile, be sure to connect with everyone in your current network. The list of relationships mentioned above should be a good starting point.
In addition to the more well known social media platforms, there are a handful of other professional relationship networks I would recommend looking into such as:
- Your Local Chamber of Commerce
- Join Professional Groups within Linkedin
- B2B Networks like LeTip International
- Young Professional Networks
- Local Membership-Based Organizations & Associations
- Attend Local Events Hosted by the Small Business Administration (SBA) among others
All in all, there are an endless number of relationship building/management recourses available to us. In order to network effectively, respect, integrity and staying true to yourself are focal elements that must be met. Despite the fact that you will never get along with everyone, be sure to avoid burning bridges at all costs; you never know who you’ll eventually run into.
Daniel Black graduated from Claremont McKenna College in May of 2011 and serves as an education outreach advisor for ClassesandCareers.com. As a thought leader in the education space, Daniel enjoys providing both students and recent graduates with advice, suggestions and recommendations.