Last fall, I blogged about some networking tips for the shy student. Now it’s a new year, a new term, and I have a whole new set of tips for you today. If you followed my advice, hopefully last term you made some friends, networked online, got in good with your professors, and made some social goals. Here are some challenges for you.
Hang out in the laundry room. No, really. Here is my thinking: Everyone who’s worth knowing does laundry sooner or later, right? So they will come through. And the people who don’t go to the laundry room will become someone else’s smelly friends, not yours. Added bonus: The laundry room is also a quiet place to study, generally speaking, free of many other distractions. So striking up a conversation with a potential new friend should be pretty easy. “Aren’t you in my [insert topic here] class?” is a good place to start, even if you know they aren’t. Or “Cool [team] hoodie! Were you at the game last week?”
Get out of the house or dorm. If you are in an online class, or online only program, networking may feel abstract and alienating. Try working in a public place: there are many coffee shops and even meetups targeted at people who work or study online. Check out WorkFrom.co or Meetup.com
Volunteer. This will help your resume, help you network, and connect you with people who share your interests. Put up flyers or invite people in your class to go with you to a cleanup. There are websites to find volunteer opportunities especially tailored to your interests. Try to get groups of people together to volunteer. It’s totally okay to ask your professor before class if you can make an announcement: “There’s a big river cleanup Saturday; does anyone want to go with me? It’s a great volunteer opportunity and then we can all get pizza. I’m hoping to get 20 people to come with me!”
Try on a new identity. Hell, it’s college. You might as well do it now. Do or wear something that starts conversations. Wear a tail. Get a weird piercing. Carry around a hobbyhorse. Be a Brony. Have a few snappy answers ready when someone asks you about them.
“Say Yes”. This is simple, but consider: there are few other times in your life when you have as much to gain and as little to lose as you do in college. A friend of mine had a rule in college to never turn down social engagements and to always say yes the first three times someone asked her to do something. After that, if you hate them, say no! But what’s the worst that will happen if you sit and have lunch (or three lunches) with someone who turns out to be boring, or if you go on a “meh” date or three? Nothing! You’ll gain valuable social experience and maybe even build important relationships.
Focus on networking, not studying. Work smarter, not harder, and see if any of our friendly professors can help you today.