Communication, connection, collaboration; the three C’s of networking are crucial life skills. As you connect with others, you open doors to new perspectives, personalities, and opportunities. Whether professional or social, networking is an essential skill to hone when you’re young.
Students in high school should try networking throughout their academic career. In high school, it’s likely you’ll start networking through direct conversations rather than promoting a business or offering a calling card. It’s a great time to practice by introducing yourself, asking others about their interests, and sharing your own.
Here are three quick steps for networking while you’re still in high school:
- Connect: Create a social media presence
If you’re still in high school, building an online presence through social networks complements your personality, helps you engage with professionals in interesting fields, and attracts recruiters. High school students should take advantage of LinkedIn to promote their interests, extracurricular activities, and any community engagement.
It’s useful to create a separate blog site to connect with a global social media network and demonstrate thought leadership. It’s even better if you add blog content to your LinkedIn profile, optimize with keywords, and generate conversation on your page. If you respectfully comment on blogs of interest, participate in discussions, and recommend friends or coworkers, your profile may become more visible to professionals and potential mentors. Don’t forget to add a profile picture to make your profile more personable.
- Collaborate: Be an active community member
Action and collaboration are key skills in your social development. Be proactive in school organizations, extracurricular activities (like a school sport), and events. Attend meetings and become a member of your school or neighborhood community. Perhaps, you want a better recycling system in your school. Maybe you’d like to plan a school-hosted event for a local charity. Attempting to create improvement helps you become noticed.
It’s also helpful if you take on a leadership position in a student-run organization. Suggesting new ideas for the student body helps you interact with students from diverse backgrounds and interests. When acting diplomatically–and empathetically–for your classmates’ interests, you can build strong credibility with students and faculty.
Take advantage of the community hub a school or neighborhood provides. Collaborating with others allows you to learn to work together which is a desirable career trait. Plus, when you’re actively involved with meaningful projects, you can meet many like-minded individuals who may lead you to greener pastures or lifelong friendships.
- Communicate: Interact with people who are different from you
A well-rounded individual knows to listen and acknowledge differing ideas. Try to engage with a diverse group of students who are different from yourself. Inclusive communication offers lessons in patience, socialization, culture, and introduces you to new perspectives. Why not introduce yourself to a different table of students at lunch each day?
The free exchange of ideas is crucial to build relationships, tolerance, and respect with vastly different communities and networks. Some of the most influential and effective personalities, like Beyonce or Steve Jobs, made their work better because they collaborated with professionals outside their areas of expertise. When you offer open channels of communication, advice, or assistance to people, you build more integrated worlds that benefits everyone. Plus, working with diverse groups helps generate more well-rounded and innovative thinking. It also keeps you from pigeonholing yourself into a certain mold or idea.
It always pays to follow your passion. As you pursue your interests, you’ll be able to share facts and build natural conversation with others. It’s also easier to talk with strangers when you have something to say!
Follow these three networking tips to grow into a well-rounded and outgoing individual from the get-go. Even if you’re nervous at first, it never hurts to practice, grow your reputation, and put yourself out there!