As college students, most of us are accustomed to meeting new people each semester. With a few exceptions, college students usually end up spending each semester with a mostly unfamiliar group of students. In most circumstances, the extent of the relationships shared by many of these students includes collaborating on dreaded group projects or studying for an equally dreaded final test.
Usually, once that class is complete, the four month long affiliation between many of those classmates reduces to a head nod of acknowledgment as they past one another on campus until they finally graduate.
I’ve mapped out the typical evolution of classmate relationships over a semester because I think our lack of regard for our fellow classmates allows us to waste valuable opportunity. The college setting is the perfect environment to build a strong professional network among peers. As proactive public relations students, we look for conferences and other forums organized by professionals in our field to do networking. Our campuses and classrooms provide ideal circumstances for exiting college with strong relationships and contacts, yet we often overlook them. Below are a few ways college students can develop their peer networks before even graduating.
Exchange Business Cards
If you’re anything like me, you have purchased 250 or more business cards for a conference or networking event you attended and have barely put a dent in them. The beginning of the semester, complete with a fresh set of future colleagues, is the perfect opportunity for you to put those business cards to use. Let’s face it—not every classmate is going to become a close friend but many can become contacts. Exchanging business cards with a fellow classmate could make them want to develop a professional relationship with you.
Inquire About Internship Experiences and Relevant Opportunities
We attend colleges and universities with thousands of students who filter into the city and partake in unique opportunities that relate to our field. We can gain a lot from simply engaging in conversation with the person who sits next to us about what they’ve been able to learn in their past experiences. You never know! Your classmate could help you learn about relevant opportunities that you never previously considered pursuing. Simply engaging in conversation with a colleague can be an enriching exchange that encourages you to seek greater opportunities. Furthermore, sharing about hobbies and personal projects can help us better connect with our peers and even develop relationships that double as professional contacts and new friends.
Ask for Referrals to Past Professional Experiences
Once I apply to an internship or job opportunity, I usually file through my contacts to identify if I know someone who is already a part of that organization that may be able to help me get in. We all know that who you know can often be more valuable than what you know. Many college students may not have extensive connections with public relations professionals, but more often than not, a peer of ours has some affiliation with a professional that we wish to know. If we develop our peer network, we can utilize their professional network to gain new relationships and great opportunities. Personally, my past three public relations opportunities were landed largely because I was referred by a fellow student.
Join Professional Organizations Together
Professional organizations like PPRA or PRSA can provide invaluable opportunities to network or meet industry professionals, but it can be very intimidating for college students to immerse themselves in environments completely populated by people who already have well established careers. If students develop their peer networks, they can accompany one another in emerging into these professional organizations.
Don’t allow the opportunity to develop a strong professional network pass by you. Get rid of those unused business cards, spark up a few conversations, and finish up undergrad with numerous contacts and a strong network.
This guest blog post was written by PRowl staff member Jameeda Rucker.