Networking. That word could mean a lot or little. It’s heavy with post-graduation, real-world angst. What if I don’t have a good network? What is a good network? I never really talked to my professor, how am I supposed to get a letter of recommendation? Should I always use italics for internal monologue? 

The more people you talk to and meet, the stronger your network. Think about it like this: James Bond wouldn’t be a master spy if he worked completely solo. He needs Q and M for gadgets and advice. The same can be said about Batman and his relationship with Alfred and Robin.

If you didn’t know me well, you might think of me as the shy type. For the longest time in college, I didn’t speak in class or go out. This was a problem because I was missing a lot of opportunities to grow my network–I probably could have met a lot more cool people if I just spoke up more!

What happens when you’ve got a shiny degree but nothing to do with it? It’s like that saying, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. The people that know you will be able to open doors for you, big or small. And maybe you were like me, a little shy and had trouble reaching out. Here’s a few tips to help you out.

Take advantage of group projects

For some shy folks it’s difficult to reach out and start conversation so when the professor asks for a group project, take advantage of it. You’re forced into a group with students you may not know but you all share a common interest now in the assignment. Use this time to get to know some of your classmates since  you’re going to be stuck with them anyways. Thank your professor afterwards for breaking the ice.

Use social media to connect

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, social media is becoming a valuable tool in everyone’s skillset, that is, if you utilize it correctly. For me, I always felt a little more comfortable typing an e-mail or sending a quick instant message to reach out to folks. If you’re on any of the previously mentioned networks–I know you are–use them to communicate. Reach out to your professor, that guy that was looking for a drummer for his band, or that science whiz who needed a designer for his project.

Giant companies today started small and the best ones have always started with more than one person. Using social networks to connect beats the anxiety of face-to-face interactions.

 LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the grand daddy of professional social networks. Not only can you connect with professionals in your desired field but you can even use the site to apply for certain jobs. Pro-tip: connect with as many people as possible on LinkedIn. Start with your current contacts and branch out from there. The social network also lets its users fill in their work experience, essentially giving every one a resume that lives on the site. A large number of recruiters also use LinkedIn to find potential candidates so it’s definitely a plus to have presence there.

Join a club

It’s been said a ton of times, but joining a club is crucial for meeting people, and not just any people, but like-minded people. You might be an introvert but nothing quite beats getting together with a group of people that enjoy the same thing as you do. It’s a bit easier to open up when you’re sharing in a common interest.

Have a friend introduce you

Every shy kid has at least one friend, so if you want to get to know someone outside your typical friend circle, ask for an introduction. This way, your buddy will introduce you to whoever you want to get to know better and you won’t be stuck trying to come up with an ice breaker yourself. Plus, having friends to back you up in such situations is comforting. Networking is definitely easier with friends.

 

This article as first posted on Chegg Blog.

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