5 Awkward Ways to Boost Your Network in College

The idea of networking in an unusual way can be intimidating and overwhelming. It may seem easier to hope that opportunities will fall into your lap instead of putting yourself out there in a way that may be awkward. In a society that is hypercompetitive for jobs and opportunities, it is imperative that one conforms to being uncomfortable. Networking in unconventional ways has brought many individuals opportunities that they would have never imagined if it were not for that one leap of faith. You will not always be placed in a room with individuals who can offer you opportunities, so you have to be an opportunity seeker. Always remember, nothing beats a failure but a try and here are some tips to start trying.

Social media

Do not belittle the idea that your favorite social platforms like Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram, could lead you to a career opportunity. In fact, actor Jussie Smollett shared that he received the role of Jamal Lyon on the hit show Empire, by direct messaging the show’s creator on Instagram. In that message, Smollett shared his talents with the creator and what he could offer to the role. This unusual connection resulted in Smollett being an actor on one of the highest-ranking television shows on primetime television and from that, he was signed to Columbia Records as an artist. Never underestimate the power of reaching out to potential employers on social media. One direct message on Instagram or one mention on Twitter could enhance your career path.

Emailing strangers

Many of my career opportunities have come from this method. I reached out to individuals who I look up to that do work similar to my career aspirations. I shared with them my interests, my campus involvement, and why I am inspired by their work and the brand they represent. When making an attempt to tackle this method, be sure to ask yourself, ‘What would set my email apart from the hundreds of emails that he/she receives everyday?’ Consider things that you may have in common with the person or acknowledge something that the person has recently accomplished so that he/she can see that you have been following his/her brand. There are not many people who are receptive to those who are looking for a hand out. Be sure to let the person know that as much as you are interested in being a part of their team, they are just as lucky to have you as an asset.

Do the “small” work

You already have the job but now you want to stand out. As trivial as it may seem, doing the small things accurately is imperative to networking and building relationships. Employers want to see that you are just as enthused about scanning their papers, as you would be if they assigned you a major project. If you are unable to execute the small jobs to their liking, then it is unlikely that they will trust you with the big assignments. Laying the groundwork and being of help to someone else or your team is just as important as having the spotlight, if not more important. Showing that you are a team player brings many opportunities and promotions because you have learned to embrace being selfless in your work environment.

Feed them

One thing that all people have in common is food. In order to survive, each and every one of us has to eat. With that, food is always an advantage in the field of networking. If there is someone in your industry who you admire or would like to learn more about what it is that they do, a nice cup of coffee will do the trick! Offer to take that person out so that the two of you can get to know each other better. (However, be courteous about his/her schedule while trying to fit you in.) Any setting where you can have one on one time with someone who can help you move forward in your career, is a subliminal interview. This is also the perfect environment to be observational. Listen out for the person’s interests, their hobbies, and of course, pay attention to what it is that they like to eat. This will be of great benefit to you if you were to give the next networking tip a try.

Thank you letters/gifts

Although this method is not quite unconventional, it is one that is not used as often as it should be. After leaving an interview or having a conversation with someone who could possibly impact the next phase of your career, be sure to thank that person for his/her time. In such a digital society, emails have sufficed for this method, but a hand written note would set you apart because not only do people avoid writing letters these days, but it shows that you care enough to sit down and hand write a letter tailored to that person. Another method that works is thank you gifts. These are not extravagant gifts that require a lot of money to be spent, but meaningful ones. For example, I once met a man who was interviewed by a guy that is a baseball fanatic. During the interview, the man noted that and a few days later, he sent the employer a baseball that said, “I’d go to bat for your company.” In addition to the man having a great interview, the company hired him because of that baseball.

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