It's never too early to start networking


I wish I had realized the importance of networking when I was in school. I don’t remember learning about building solid relationships. I remember a little bit of pre-algebra and world history, but that’s about it. I was also trying to figure out how to tease my hair to great heights. This was the eighties.

Had I realized the importance of building relationships with people at an early age, I might have kept in better touch with old friends as well as with respected teachers, administrators, and coaches. I would love to know what they are up to now.

As an adult, I absolutely know networking has served me well. It led me to different jobs within my career path and it most certainly has helped to build my business.

When you’re all grown up, you have to make a concerted effort to meet new people. Maybe you pay to attend an official networking event. Perhaps you travel to a conference within your industry. You could also pull together your own meetup. Either way, networking as an adult can be an investment in time and money.

But when you’re in school, there are plenty of opportunities to meet new people so easily. Take advantage of these opportunities to meet new people and build relationships. Here’s why:

  1. People want to help you succeed.

Yes, I firmly believe people want to see you succeed. Busy and successful people, especially, want to help you. BUT, they have limited time. So if you come in contact with that kind of person through your networking, you must give them a specific way to offer guidance.

Too often, people will meet busy people and want to talk – for a long time.

But time is what busy people lack. So, do your homework on that person first. Figure out what kind of expertise he/she has, and then come up with specific questions for which you would like an answer. Maybe the person is in a career field you find interesting. Ask about his/her path, classes he/she took, programs he/she found valuable. Start with asking specific questions, get answers, follow up in the future and see where the relationship takes you.

2) Opportunities are everywhere

Where can you meet people? When in school, you meet new people everywhere. In the line to get snacks, at parties, while volunteering.

Consider these other options:

  • After-school groups
  • After-school jobs
  • Sporting events
  • Alumni organizations
  • College classes
  • Volunteer organizations
  • Organized mentor groups
  • Gatherings with family and friends

Recognize these opportunities as places to get to know people with different backgrounds, with different experiences, and learn from them. You may have heard people say part of the success in life is just showing up. It’s true, especially in these situations. If you simply show up to volunteer or to take part in an after-school activity, you’ll get benefits just by being in the room.

3) Helping others helps you, too

Remember that busy person you talked with above? He/she may be an expert in a particular business or career field, but maybe another subject is not really in his/her wheelhouse. That’s where you can step in.

Whether it’s social media, coding, or building wooden models, maybe you have a skill that the other person may find interesting.

If you find there is an interest, share what you know. And the relationships becomes more of a give and take. Both parties can get something of value in return.

4) It builds confidence

Knowing what to say around new people is a skill, and the more times you do it, the better you will get.

The more times you introduce yourself, the smoother the process becomes and the easier it will roll off your tongue.

The first time you say your name, your school and what you’re majoring in, you might have stumbled.

But, once you’ve been to a few events, met a few people, and know how to begin a conversation, you can say, with confidence, “Hi, my name is Rebecca. I go to the University of Virginia and I’m going to be a mechanical engineer.”

Practice makes perfect.

5)  Your next opportunity can most certainly come from a previous relationship

People move up in careers. And sometimes that means you can, too.

One of my first jobs out of college was at a TV station in Richmond. I was a part-time tape editor. They don’t even use tapes anymore. In any case, one of the producers there had heard through the grapevine that a TV station in a city where she used to work was launching a new news department. They were looking for TV news reporters. She told me about it and urged me to send in my resume tape, I got the job, and that was the start of my TV news career. Years later, I returned to Richmond. That same woman moved to another office, and she offered me a job.

If you create relationships and keep in touch over the years, those people may remember you as they work to fill other opportunities.

I love this quote from entrepreneur Jim Rohn. He said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

If you start young making connections with strong people, you will amass quite a list of impressive mentors by the time you’re an adult.

We would love to hear about your success. What other tips on networking have worked for you? Please share those stories and ideas in the comments.

Also, don’t forget to download the guide, “The 8 seeds to success in business.” It’s designed to help you on your journey in business and in life.