As with many of our prior posts, this post’s topic is one that relates to students of all types: high school students, community college students, college students, master’s students, and other types of students!
Today, we’re talking about networking. It is far from the first time we’ve talked about this: we’ve previously talked about how to use networking to get an internship (the often overlooked, but more effective way of getting a role), how to set up a networking call, how to prepare for the networking call, how to follow up right after the call, and how to keep up communication over a matter of months or years.
All of that advice still applies, and today we’re going to take it another step further and explain why your time being a student is the ideal time to begin your networking journey. You may be thinking: I can’t network until I’m working full-time. That is FALSE! In fact, you can– and should– start networking years before you start your first internship or job.
In this post, we’re going to share 3 reasons why your “student status” is a unique asset that can help you arrange networking conversations. For each of these reasons, we’ll also share how you can leverage your student status to make the conversations happen, and also how to keep up those relationships over time. Let’s dive in.
1. The chance of getting the other person to commit to a networking call with you is better as a student compared to once you’ve graduated and are already working
Anytime you set up a networking call with someone, you should understand that you are taking somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes of their time. The other person could be doing anything from spending time with their family to working to going to the gym during that time. Yet, they took the time to speak with you. This isn’t to say that you should feel bad about setting up networking conversations. You should be proud and bold in setting up networking conversations because they’re deeply valuable to you and they even prove to the other person that you have initiative.
However, this notion of time demands explains why someone may decide to speak more with current students than those who are already working. Let’s say you’re a working professional and you recently received two requests to have a networking call, one from a current student and one from someone who has already graduated and is working full-time. You only have time to take one call. Which one do you take? For most people, they decide to take the call with the student. This can be for a variety of reasons, however a few core ones to highlight:
Simply put, people like to help students
When speaking with a student, people are reminded of their time as a student and most people like going down memory lane which they can uniquely do when talking to a student (instead of someone who is already working)
Recommendation: you should simply start networking calls as early as you can during your time as a student. Further, you can lean into the fact you’re a student
2. You can lean deeply into the affinity of being at a certain school
Whenever you’re looking to network (whether it’s as a student or after you’ve graduated), it is often a smart idea to reach out to people who went to your school (whether it’s your high school, college, graduate school, etc.). Why? Well, simply put, people prefer to speak with those who they have an affinity with, and shared educational history creates an immediate affinity.
The school affinity takes on an increased dimension when you’re a current student. Why? These are two core reasons:
As a current student, simply telling the other person (ie: on your LinkedIn connection request to them) that you’re a “current student” might likely instill a sense of nostalgia about your school in them. By saying you’re a current student, the other person might likely be thinking “I remember being a student at our school and would love to reminisce on that experience” and/or “I remember how helpful alumni were to me when I was a student and I’d love to pay it forward and return the favor.”
The person may be curious to hear about how things currently are at your school… and you can provide them that insight. For example, let’s say you’re a student focused on entrepreneurship at XYZ school. If you say in your LinkedIn connection request that you’re a “current student at XYZ school focused on entrepreneurship,” the other person may immediately be thinking: I want to hear about how things are going at my alma mater in terms of entrepreneurship. This isn’t to say that the other person doesn’t also want to help you: in reality, the main reason the other person will offer to talk to you is because they want to help you. However, these other reasons around getting an update about things at the school may be a little added incentive
Recommendation: when reaching out to people on LinkedIn or over email, if you share the same school, you should clearly say that. As an example, you can say: “I’m a current student at [NAME] school– I know you also went to [SCHOOL NAME]!” If the alumnus of the school is more recent (ie: graduated within the last five years), you can also say “I’d love to hear about how your experiences at [SCHOOL NAME] set you up for your career.” If the alumnus graduated awhile ago, then this sentence may be less relevant as school may be a ways in the past for them.
3. Most people will not question your motives when you’re a student compared to how they might once you’re older and working at a company
When you’re a student, people will more easily accept your request to have a networking conversation compared to when you’re a working professional. There’s a variety of reasons behind this:
Most people are more sympathetic to helping students than working professionals
As a student, you can say you simply want to learn about the other person’s job and career journey, whereas when you’re a working professional, you might have to have a more nuanced angle as to what you want from the other person
It’s easier to trust students to keep details shared confidential whereas a working professional might be more hesitant about what they can share (and thus whether they should do the networking call) with someone who is already working
To illustrate this more clearly, let’s go through an example scenario. Imagine you are the person (a working professional) being reached out to by a student to have a networking conversation. If the student says they’re a student, really passionate about your background, and wants to learn more, you might likely be thinking: I’m happy to talk with them for a few minutes and to share more, they seem to be a student that’s curious to learn more.
On the flipside, let’s say the person reaching out is full-time and works for a consulting firm like McKinsey and they say they want to learn more about your work. While you still may take their call, you will likely have a lot more questions on your mind than you did when the student reached out. You might be thinking: does this person just want me to refer them for a job? Are they trying to sell me something from the company they work for? Does the person actually want to learn from me? How can I trust what I say will be confidential?
Our point with this example is not that you can’t network once you’re no longer a student. You absolutely can (and should) still network even once you’re working full-time. Our point is that it is easier as a student to get networking calls arranged compared to when you’re working full-time.
Recommendation: don’t tell yourself as a student that networking is something “you’ll do when you are older and have started working.” As it turns out, you will probably get your first full-time job (and internship) through networking… which means that you’re going to be networking much sooner than you might imagine. It’s best to start today and to not delay the process. The earlier you begin networking, the more compounding effects you’ll see, which we will discuss in our next post!
In conclusion: start leveraging your student status to network and form professional relationships
Are you ready to leverage your student status to begin setting up networking conversations? We hope so! In our next post, we’ll be talking about how you can actionably begin scheduling networking conversations as a student. We’ll see you again soon.
Did you enjoy this guide? You’re in for a treat: this is just one of dozens of guides created for students about how to handle the recruiting (aka: getting an internship/job) process. To see all of the other guides, subscribe to Intern From Home’s newsletter (it’s completely free!) where we talk about all things from using LinkedIn to preparing for an interview to making the most of your role.