Even though a lot of college students look forward to the excitement and fun of their senior year, the last year of your education can actually be quite stressful. It's not just the final set of academic tests of your college years, but also questions about your future life and all the upcoming job hunting that you know you'll have to get to. Whether you're starting early or trying to catch up late, it's important to take these networking basics to heart.

1. Informational meeting

Networking is the most important part of your job search, and the earlier you start, the better. However, obtaining job leads isn’t that simple, especially if you don’t have many contacts in a particular industry. If this is the case, you will find the informational interview extremely beneficial. Unlike a job interview, where you are actually applying for an open position at an organization, an informational meeting is all about having a back and forth conversation where you can learn just as much, if not more, about the person on the other side of the table as they might learn about you.

These meetings shouldn’t be underestimated as they can really key you in to new opportunities -- whether you find them through your university career center or set them up yourself through friends and family. Sitting down with various professionals, asking about their organizations and jobs, learning about industries, and starting to tell your own story to others in the context of your career are all bonuses that can give you insight into what you're looking for and how to get it.

Be persistent to schedule meetings and attend sessions, follow up with people you meet to connect further, show them why you are so interested in what they have to say, and ask to keep in touch for any further questions or help you might need. If the interviewer finds you interesting and sees some potential, another meeting might be scheduled and, soon enough, you may find a mentor or future boss. This is a great way to gain referrals, too.

2. LinkedIn – connect with like-minded professionals

The last year of college is a great time to change your view of social media networks. You can turn them into powerful job seeking tools and gain a lot of contacts that can help you start a job search. You've probably ignored it until now, but think of your LinkedIn profile as your online resume, and start to point out your achievements, skills and interests. Connect with professionals from your past jobs or internships that you've neglected adding, participate in discussions in your industry, and join your school's alumni network to find out the latest job openings. Simply said, establish your online presence, either for those searching for it or to give it out to others yourself.


3. Job Fairs

For a senior college student, a job fair is not only a great opportunity for employment, but also a chance to expand their network. This is why you need to be well-prepared before visiting one. Find out who is going to be there and prepare questions and points of conversation. Visit the website of the company and learn as much as you can about them. If you ask something that is clearly stated on the web page, you will give the impression of a lazy and unprofessional kid. If you are serious about being considered as the top candidate, you need to act like one. Dress smart and show them that you like to pay attention to even the smallest of details.

Don't forget, conversations you have at job fairs are also great practice for future interviews.

4. Your Internship(s)

This is, by far, the greatest bridge from college to a job. An internship offers great networking opportunities from the contacts you can draw on during and afterward. Additionally, employers look for candidates with some experience, and there is no better way for a senior college student to earn some.

If you've already had a few internships, start connecting with your past bosses about any openings at either the organization you were at or other potentials they might know about. If you haven't yet done an internship, it's really never too late -- seek out an internship you can handle during the school year (your career center might be able to help with this) and you'll be able to put it on your resume immediately.

Networking doesn’t mean buying lunch or coffee for everyone in the office or annoyingly adding every individual you've ever met on LinkedIn. Yes, you need to stay persistent, but in a professional and patient manner. If you have an interesting idea that may increase the company’s profit, diversify their products or services, or boost the productivity in an office, don’t be afraid to present it. Try to add value whenever you ask for it. Have a clear networking plan of who you want to meet and why. With all this in mind, be genuine, be persistent, and good luck.

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