When I first came to the United States to attend college, I was highly inspired by the open culture on campus and the students’ incredible passion toward this culture. I quickly learned that communication styles varied among student groups, and also when networking for a job. In the beginning, it was a bit difficult for me to adjust my communication style. However, as time passed, I started to feel more comfortable networking with people in different ways.
Here are a few ways you can build your social network both on and off campus:
Besides class discussions, you can expand your network through:
- Student organizations: Because I enjoy volunteering and want to pursue a career in health science, I joined a community service group which regularly organized free medical clinics in the city. Student groups can have people from different majors with similar interests or career goals in mind, and my volunteering experience helped me understand the city from different perspectives. Other than volunteering, activities tailored for international students provide opportunities to meet peers who are in the same boat. I enjoyed drinking coffee and chatting with new friends from all over the world.
- Career and graduate school fairs: Career and graduate school fairs primarily provide an open platform for students and recruiters to introduce themselves toward each other. These fairs helped me have a clearer idea about which graduate program or job would be right for me, and I met a couple of employers who gave me their business cards and invited me for on-site interviews. I also met some graduate school recruiters who had close ties with my college, and they organized follow-up phone consultations with me. Opportunities can come about unexpectedly, so it is never too early to start building your network in college.
Networking Via Social Networking Platforms
As one of my professors would always say, “Never undermine the importance of social networking sites.” This is absolutely true, and here are the top social platforms you should have:
- Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: These social media platforms are very common communication tools in America. There is a lot happening on social media sites every day, and many schools would broadcast news on these platforms. Students like using these platforms to discuss assignments, share a part of their daily lives, and promote activities. My American friends also like following my accounts to see what my life is like as an international student.
- LinkedIn: At this moment, I am preparing for graduate school, and LinkedIn allows me to connect with people in your network ahead of time. I started talking to them about the curriculum, internships, and career plans two months ago, and we have been keeping in touch since then. It is also undoubtedly a great place to look for employers who interest you (and those you met at career fairs), and what job opportunities they have for candidates with similar credentials as you. It is common for employers to ask for LinkedIn profiles during the recruitment process, so I recommend having a well-organized profile.
- School alumni networking sites: A lot of schools have their own intranet for networking with alumni (former students who have already graduated). I was able to benefit from the alumni site by asking and receiving career advice and listened to first-hand stories from different professionals.
Communicating is not rocket science, and all you really need is time to practice. Thank you for reading my story and please comment below if you have any questions.