Why you should network — and how to avoid 4 common pitfalls

Why you should network — and how to avoid 4 common pitfalls


You’re a student, and you have plenty of things to worry about — grades, finances and your social life. You’re busy and you want the full college experience. So why worry about networking now when you can do it once you graduate?

Well, investing in your career early has its advantages. You can start mastering proper business etiquette, soft skills and networking. And, this process can bring clarity to the career path you may want to pursue, leading to a future of confidence, valuable internships and job offers. If you don’t have any prior networking experience, you may be wondering how to start. How do you get the courage to talk to anyone? Who should you talk to? How do you maintain the relationship?

By learning how to avoid common networking pitfalls, you can answer questions that young professionals face and start networking now.

How can you provide value?

Have you ever had a conversation with an incredibly rude person? Chances are you probably don’t ever want to talk to them again. A common networking pitfall that can reflect these same feelings is a focus on handing out business cards, rather than providing value to others. This pitfall can be avoided by giving others your full attention and being an assertive listener. It’s also important to recognize that before anyone helps you, they usually need to perceive you as a smart investment. Will you be able to provide them value now or in the future? By identifying various potential ways you can personally help, you can assure them that you really are a smart investment.

Overcome fears caused by shyness when you are networking.

You’re smart, and you understand the importance of an early start in networking. One problem — you’re shy and you have no networking experience. Rather than choosing to not network or barely speak with anyone, this pitfall can be dodged. The answer? Tag team — bring an outgoing friend along who has similar goals. This friend will help you initiate conversations, eliminating some of your stress and allowing you to focus more energy on having conversations of value.

Develop a plan for action before you start the conversation.

Planning before a networking event about how you will express your genuine interest is extremely important. For instance, “Hi, John! It’s great to see you here. I’ve been fascinated with your work, and wanted to learn more about your accomplishments with your company.” This helps you transition into a conversation that avoids any awkward ramblings, essentially establishing and supplementing a first impression.

Follow up after networking events.

Once the event has ended, make sure you follow up with these newly developed relationships in a reasonable time. Don’t wait too long to contact them. Ensure that the relationship is still fresh and relevant to them, eliminating the possibility of a forgotten or abandoned connection. Do this by inviting them to lunch or another networking event.

Networking can seem daunting, but now you can recognize some common pitfalls and avoid them. With just a bit of planning, networking while in college can be the gateway to an exciting professional career. For more advice, be sure to check out Marymount’s Center for Career Development website!