Navigating Student Networking
Stellar grades, an impressive resume and excellent extracurriculars are not enough to succeed in post-secondary or in the work environment. Nowadays, most internships and job opportunities rely on your connections. In order to develop valuable professional relationships, students should begin networking as early as high school.
What is networking?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, networking is the practice of exchanging information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions. Essentially, it is to “cultivate productive relationships for employment or business”. Networking benefits all parties involved, and can be thought of as a symbiotic relationship.
Why should I network?
Simple: networking helps you reach goals. Looking for an internship at a law firm? Contemplating different career pathways? Applying to university? Developing connections with those who have already experienced university, worked at a law firm, or dabbled in your career of interest could reap greater benefits for you, as opposed to researching on your own.
Forming a diverse network in high school will help you to prepare as a post-secondary student, and eventually, as a job-seeker. Networking is a skill that requires time and experience, and can only be learned by putting it into practice.
Furthermore, recommendation letters can be difficult to obtain without at least one person who knows you well enough to provide a solid, flattering reference. That said, immediate family members and friends who have no professional relation to you are strongly discouraged as references.
Where do I start?
Create a LinkedIn profile
Undeniably, the internet has changed how we work, learn, and socialize. It is on various social media platforms that we find ourselves conversing with strangers and finding job opportunities with one click. Conveniently, networking can also be done on online platforms, such as LinkedIn. By setting up a profile, students can easily showcase their work background, extracurriculars, volunteer experience, and certifications. LinkedIn allows users to connect to those they have met, encouraging a more diverse network for all.
Attend networking conferences
Some community organizations offer networking conferences for high school students. It is less stressful when all attendees intend to network, and it can be more enjoyable to socialize while doing so. These networking events often inform students of other opportunities available to them, such as resume writing workshops.
Pursue non-academic extracurriculars
School-based clubs are often restricted to the school environment. You will hardly get a chance to reach out to students of other schools, and there may not be a specific club that caters to your interests. Ever considered joining a youth-led organization or a council? They are composed entirely of students like yourselves, and tend to have a specific goal in mind for the group. They may host events in the community for other students or focus on fundraising for a certain non-profit organization. Not only does participating in a youth council develop strong connections between members, but you will be able to learn a multitude of skills. Time management, teamwork, and proficiency in communication are all skills that could be better developed outside of your school environment.