Being a successful student requires balancing the academic work with the networking and career preparation work necessary to launch you into your career field. Skilled networkers get over the fear of rejection and get comfortable learning and connecting with professional folks. Believe that people in “the real world” will be interested in your thoughts and talents. Be proactive. Reach out to people in fields you are interested in while you’re in school; don’t wait until you’re finished. When you are actively looking for a job or a 4-year college connection, it’s too late.
Start making connections as early as you can. Email people in fields you’re interested in, even if only to say “I read your book and it really had an impact on me” or “I really admire your work, can you tell me more about your background and how you became a professional in your field”. Look to your online connections Join professional organizations – most offer low-priced student memberships – and attend conferences, go with on-campus organizations or let your advisors know you are interested in getting more involved. Remember you have the power to join or create groups on campus devoted to topics that interest you.
In most cases, you’ll find that people are more than willing to lend a hand to an interested student. Professionals love to share their successes and it’s flattering to be recognized for what you’re accomplishing, no matter what the source, and it feels good to know you’re helping someone set out on the right path. There are exceptions, of course, but few enough that you can always move on to the next person.
Get excited about learning about your field and building connections with your network. You will learn so much during this time and it will greatly contribute to to your future direction. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and understand the way things work in your field. Be honest of the questions you need to ask and be thoughtful and thankful with the people you meet. Making those connections will contribute to your success and can be mentors and friends to you for life. Not a bad deal!