"But I'm young."
"But I have nothing to offer."
"But I'm shy."
"But I don't know anything about business."
"But I'm awkward."
These are just a few examples of some of the comments I've heard from young people who are afraid of networking. And they are all valid and understandable.
But they're also all wrong.
Networking is this scary weird term that often conjures up some sleazy guy in a suit trying to talk himself up and force his business card into your hand.
This is not the kind of networking I'm talking about. The kind of networking I believe in feels more like friendship, and being young and/or a student can be a huge advantage if you know how to leverage it.
I've written about this formula a lot (it's pretty much the basis for the last third of my first book and the entirety of my second book) but I think it's always helpful to have a reminder.
The best way to start to build your network in college is to ask for advice.
Sure, you may not know a lot. You may have nothing to offer. You may be awkward and shy. And that's okay!
You actually have more to offer than you realize. Because when you ask someone for advice, listen, and then take that advice, you turn that person into your coach/mentor.
And feeling like a coach or mentor to someone is one of the best feelings in the world.
We all want to impact people's lives. We all want to feel like what we've learned in our life can be passed on and add value to someone else.
When you ask someone you admire for advice and really listen, you create an incredible bond and build a friendship that can lead to some amazing opportunities and often add value to your life in ways so beyond the traditional business-card exchange (heck you don't even need a business card for this kind of networking!)
Building a network is vital to succeeding in college and career. It just is.
No one is successful alone.
Here is one way to start right now:
Go to your college's student life office, career center, or the office hours of your favorite professor and ask for their advice regarding something you're trying to accomplish right now.
You don't have to have all the answers. Be vulnerable and honest about your struggles. Ask for advice. If the advice seems good to you, take it, and then go back and say thank you.
Start small and be persistent. This takes time. Try to ask for advice of someone you admire at least once a week.
And then watch as your network grows, your opportunities expand, and your path clears.