Today’s guest post comes from Cher Hale, a student at College of Southern Nevada and the University of Nevada Las Vegas. When not busy using her intelligence, heart and wit to change the world through organizations like Students Making a Difference and Circle K International, Cher is an avid baker and the creator of the terrific blog, Uniquely Cher (a hip fusion of her musings on philanthropy, baking, crafting and financial know-how. You can (and should!) follow her on Twitter @CherIsANerd.
Do you remember how fast rumors spread in high school? A guy would tell a friend about a girl he likes. Then, his friend would tell a different girl who would spread the information around school, ultimately blowing it out of proportion. By the time the bell would ring, even the teachers were privy to the fact that Joe has asked Ginny to marry him at fifteen, and they were running off to Arizona to elope.
If utilized correctly, the speed at which rumors are spread could be the same speed that your network can grow during your university years.
As a CAREERpreneur and college student, I am given the opportunity to connect with people with diverse backgrounds, unique interests, and thousands of connections every single day. And while it is beneficial for me to join student organizations on campus to increase relationship building, I actually do not have to look further than my scheduled classes for networking opportunities. Each class has a minimum of fifteen students, sometimes as many as thirty or forty. Most college students carry 4-6 classes per semester. That is anywhere from sixty to a couple hundred people that college students like me see on a regular basis each semester. As an emerging CAREERpreneur, I have an opportunity (and responsibility!) to start conversations with my peers. It can be as simple as asking: What is your major?
This is a very generic question, however. I recommend to other students and young professionals who are learning how to network, try to be diverse with your initial sentences. Tell me about your background. That _____ your wearing is terrific. Where do you like to shop? It makes you more memorable.
I have found that coming up with that initial sentence is the hardest part of the relationship building process. After you get through that, there are four simple steps that you can take to ensure that the connection you have garnered will stay intact for as long as you choose:
1) Greet openly! A simple hello and a smile while passing a new member of your network in the Student Union/Coffee Bean/parking lot can remind the person who you are, that you are willing to talk with them outside of class, and that you are friendly.
2) Spark conversations before class. At first, you can start conversations based on class material and eventually delve into more personal communication. Once you can get people to start talking about themselves, you will realize that you can find many things that you have in common.
3) Show a genuine interest. People are reactors to body language, and they will be able to tell when you’re not actually interested in what they’re talking about. Never feign interest or knowledge! If you’re not actually intrigued about what they’re saying or aren’t sure what they’re talking about, then say, I’ve never really been interested in that topic, or I’ve never really known much about that, could you explain it to me? This allows the opposite person to get the hint that you want to switch topics, or lets them fall into a comfort zone when explaining to you something they are really knowledgeable about.
4) Make plans. Every semester, there are these terrible little occurrences…called tests. Group studying is one of the best ways to learn material, and a large majority of students are used to meeting up in study groups. So be sure to utilize them as networking opportunities! Make sure to be understanding of the other people’s schedules, and compromise when it comes to location, time, and date to pick solutions that are best for the group. This is a very important step in creating relationships in college, and it often leads to ongoing relationships via social media, such as Facebook or Twitter.
Meeting new people and starting conversations can be an awkward process for many people—in college and in life. But like so many other skills, it only requires a bit of enthusiasm and practice. Once you are able to implement these four steps into your day-to-day college life, you will become accustomed to and comfortable forging relationships every day.