5 Ways to Network and Make Friends in College

The following post is written by Altif Wyle-Brown from UCSB, one of our many friends at Uloop, a student powered marketplace. Read more great posts in their blog.

It is in human nature to steer away from things that make us feel uncomfortable or uncertain. However, when new to a college campus it can be hard to find one’s niche. And even for many that have been on the college campus for years, they find themselves meandering around with the same individuals that they were friends with Freshmen year.

It is important to step outside of these comfort zones in order to shape and create a larger friend base that can aid you in the future, especially when looking for work. It’s not hard to accomplish this; it just takes a few steps to succeed in being a social giant.

Switch It Up
Although it is very easy to be a part of the same organizations that you have been a part of for your entire life, it is more beneficial to branch out to various organizations that have different backgrounds, connections, and client bases than your own. For example, even if you are not politically driven it may be rather prudent to join Young Republicans, Campus Democrats, etc. Or on the flip-side, if you have been a part of a politically affiliated organization for a long time, then maybe you should switch it up and join the Adventure Club or Fencing Club. By doing this, your face and name gain recognition across demographics.

Approach the Unfamiliar
Oftentimes people get so wrapped up in their own lives that they forget that there are six billion other people on the planet. Yes, friendships are amazing, especially the lifelong ones. However, someone that you have known since pre-school will not vanish if you do not hang out with them for a couple days. Be approachable and approach those that you don’t know. For example, if someone is wearing a shirt that says “Combat Airsoft” you may feign interest in order to spark a conversation which could lead to a friendship. No one ever got anywhere by staying in their shell, and neither should you.

Be Openly Interesting
Too many times people complain about not having friends but are completely closed off and don’t let others in. If you expect to make real connections with people, it is important that they are given a sense of disclosure. By disclosing information, people have various ways to remember you in the future. And furthermore, being interesting is beneficial to attraction. People typically would rather be friends with someone that they find interesting, than someone dull.  If for some reason the friendship dies, it is important to leave an impression that will stick. And this is often done by disclosing a very interesting part of you.

Market Yourself
The era in which business cards were only for the elite has passed. Anyone who is interested in networking and creating friendships should utilize business cards. Oftentimes college campuses allow students to order business cards for next to nothing.  After a conversation with someone, it may be prudent to hand them a business card. It is less personal than putting their number in your phone, but is still informal enough that they will be comfortable phoning, emailing, etc. As long as the connection is established, keeping in touch is how it is maintained.

Maybe business cards aren’t your style, and for many it isn’t. One of the greatest tools for networking and social development is social networking sites (hence the name). Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Twitter have revolutionized the way that many of us keep in contact with one another. Don’t be afraid to accept people that you may have only spoken with a few times. The main focus is to try establishing connections with people in such a way that they will remember you in the future; better yet, never let the relationship die.

Don’t Hide in the Shadows
This is the most important of the listed suggestions. It is very important that people see you often. There is nothing wrong with having lunch on campus once a week or studying someplace with a flow of traffic. By making yourself more visible, in turn, it makes you more accessible. When you are a recurring figure within people’s lives, they feel obliged to know you, and a conversation is inevitable.  Even if you are a member of a million campus organizations and you make it rain business cards every day, it all means nothing if your face is not present.

Being able to balance all of the aforementioned suggestions in addition to studies, intramurals, jobs, and organizations, is a very difficult skill and oftentimes it seems as if there aren’t enough hours in the day. By no means should you feel worn out; these adjustments should compliment your life.  And eventually, most things will begin to come naturally.

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