Your network can be the first step to getting your foot in the door, but if you’re looking for a job now, it’s a little late to be building something new. Instead, make the most out of the network you already have, which is probably bigger than you think it is. Typically, candidates look to their immediate family, childhood friends, and old supervisors, but don’t let that field limit your thinking. You have plenty of dormant connections, some of whom you may have never met before, who’d potentially be willing to have a conversation with you and pass your name forward to other useful people. Students often overlook:
Alumni networks - this may seem like an obvious starting point, but don’t forget that these networks can be segmented to establish more personal connections. Are you in a specific specialty school (i.e. a college of Engineering / Business / Policy), honors, or degree program? Do you share any extracurricular activities that would help you establish commonality with an alumnus? All of these things can improve your chances of having a productive conversation.
TIP: Check with your career center to see if they have lists of alumni categorized by industry who would be willing to speak to students.
Your professors - especially at the early stages of your college career, your professors can be easy to forget. Nonetheless, they can often be extremely accomplished former professionals with plenty of connections. Look into their backgrounds, and if they specialized in something you’d like to do one day, go ahead and reach out. If you’re currently taking their classes, remember that they’re always available during office hours.
Your peers - some say the people you meet in college are more important than the courses you take, and while you should still aim to excel in your classes, the people you meet in them can be more helpful than you know. At this later stage of recruiting, your friends can help you get the lay of the land in industries that you’re interested in and potentially introduce you to contacts they’ve interacted with in the past.
Anyone you’ve already interviewed with - this segment is probably overlooked most often, but rejections don’t always mean goodbye, especially if you made it to final round interviews. While the opportunity you were interviewing for may be off the table, the people who ran your interviews are still a valuable resource. Reach out for advice, and if you’re lucky, you may be the first to hear about new opportunities adjacent to what you interviewed with earlier in the year.