You've probably heard the saying, "It's not what you know; it's who you know." And it's true - your network is one of your most valuable assets. The more people you know, the more opportunities will come your way. At the core, a network is just a group of people who know each other and work together. It can be your classmates, friends, family, or coworkers. Networking is important because it helps you build relationships and connections with other people. When you have a strong network, you can get help from others when you need it, and they can help you too. So how do you go about networking?
Join a club or organization related to your interests
It could be anything from a sports team to a debate club. If you're passionate about something, you can also start your own club! At clubs, you'll meet people with similar interests who can help you define your high-school experience. I've met some of my closest friends through clubs like Model United Nations and Future Business Leaders of America. Plus, it looks great on college applications when you hold leadership positions in the clubs and organizations you're a part of.
Attend club events related to your interests. There are likely numerous events in your area that are related to your interests. Attend as many as you can! This is a great way to meet people of similar interests.
Join social media groups for students at your school or grade level (various discord servers, messenger chats). These will help connect people with similar interests together.
Get involved with community service activities through clubs or other organizations such as the National Honor Society (NHS) and Key Club International (KCI). If there isn't one available yet, consider starting an organization of your own that helps out local charities/nonprofits while spreading awareness among fellow students on campus! Also, if possible, join national honor societies so you can network with people from all over the country.
Colleges are looking for T-shaped people. T-shaped people have a few interests/passions and are experts in one. For example, I'm passionate about writing, photography, and medicine. However, I would say I'm an expert in writing because that's the activity I spend the most time on, honing my craft. Being T-shaped is beneficial because you can connect with more people of similar interests when it comes to networking. Vs. generalists. Generalists are interested in a lot of things but don't have any expertise in one. When you try to connect with someone, you might not have anything to offer them or vice versa.
Being T-shaped also allows you to be a resource for others. When people know that you're an expert in something, they'll come to you for advice and help. They'll also be more likely to help you out because they know that you can offer something valuable in return. So, if you want to be a good networker, focus on being T-shaped!
Attend campus events and meet new people
Attending as many campus events as possible is a way to maximize your high school experience and grow your network. You'll meet new people, learn about different things going on at your school, and have a lot of fun! From pep rallies to club meetings, there are always opportunities to get involved on campus.
Stay positive and be yourself. People are more likely to want to help out someone they like and who is genuine. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there - the more people you talk to, the better!
The saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is especially true when it comes to networking during high school. A strong network provides opportunities for guidance, advice, and support that can help with everything from finding a job or internship to getting into college.
Volunteer for events and causes that are important to you
Volunteering is a great way to meet new people and build relationships!
Join clubs or student organizations at school related to your personal interests such as sports teams, debate teams, etc.
Attend school events like dances or games where there may be other students who share similar goals/interests than yours (or even just want someone to talk about what happened during yesterday's episode).
Attend career fairs and other internship events on or off-campus. Many of these events have speakers who give great insights about their careers and share how they got to where they are today.
Create social media groups for students in your grade level (like a discord group), which will help connect people based on these commonalities- this might also lead to finding classmates who are interested in things outside of your interests.
Talk to people - get to know them and what they're interested in
Networking can seem daunting, but it will be a lot easier than you think if you start early and put yourself out there. And don't forget - the most important thing is to have fun with it!
Take a page from How to Win Friends and Influence People. Dale Carnegie's classic book on how to get along with people offers some great tips for high school students looking to expand their network.
- Do Not Criticize, Condemn or Complain. No one wants to be friends with someone who is always negative
- Be hearty and generous in your praise and acknowledgment.
- Be genuinely interested in other people and what they have to say. One of the best ways to get someone to like you is to listen attentively to them when they speak
- Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely. People love talking about themselves, so make sure to ask lots of questions!
- Remember their name. Carnegie says, "Remember that a person’s name is to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language."
Find a mentor in your future major
Finding a mentor can be highly beneficial when it comes to networking. They can give you guidance and advice on everything from what classes to take to prepare for your major to finding a job or internship in your field.
Start off by finding people who work in fields that interest you and reach out to them either online or in person. Ask them questions about their work, what they like and don’t like about it, and any advice they might have for someone just starting out.
Cold messaging on email or LinkedIn:
My name is <<Name>> and I'm a high school student interested in <<Professional Interest>>. I am curious to hear more about your experience with <<field of Experistise>>. I'd love to learn about how you broke into the field as well as how I can best prepare myself for the same.
Would you be free for a ~30-minute informational coffee chat at <<date and time>>? Thank you!
Connect with friends of friends and expand your social circle
Ask yourself, how can I provide value to the other person? What can you offer them?
Make sure to follow up with all connections 3-6 months that have been made. Napoleon Hill, the author of Think of Grow Rich, talks about the law of increasing returns. The basic principle is that the more you put in, the more you get out. The law of increasing returns states that by doing more or providing more service than you are given pay to do, the universe will compensate you with greater money than the money you gave up performing. In the Law of Success, Hill states that "it is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others succeed."
You can also leverage social media to expand your influence and professional development. The two networks that are most relevant in this are LinkedIn and Twitter.
LinkedIn is great for discovering friends of friends who might be able to help you out professionally. You can search for people by name, company, or job title. LinkedIn will show you connections that you have in common with the person you’re searching for, which can make reaching out a lot easier.
Twitter is great for following industry leaders and getting insights into what they are thinking about and working on. It can also be a great resource for finding job opportunities and articles related to your field of interest.
Seek out internship and job opportunities early on
When it comes to networking, the sooner you start, the better. This is especially true when it comes to finding internships and job opportunities. Networking can help connect you with people who work in your field or know someone who does. It can also help you build relationships that could lead to future opportunities.
So how do you get started? The first step is identifying what type of networking events or activities are available in your area. You can find out by checking online directories or asking around at school or work. Once you’ve identified some events, make a list of the people you want to meet and then practice introducing yourself.
Seek a mentor
If you’re not sure where to start, seeking out a mentor or career advisor can be a great way to get started. A mentor is someone who can offer guidance and advice on everything from your professional development to networking. They can help connect you with people in your field and provide insights into what it’s like to work in that industry.
A career advisor can also be an excellent resource for finding internships and jobs. They can help you develop a job search strategy and give you feedback on your resume and cover letters.
Networking is an important part of your professional development. It can help you build relationships with people who might be able to help you out professionally, find internships and job opportunities, and develop your skills. The sooner you start networking, the better.