How to Network Right in Your Classroom

Networking. It’s your best friend and your worst enemy. Especially at American, you’re constantly being told to network and do it often. But, did you know that networking doesn’t need to be putting on a suit, dragging yourself to a networking event or career fair and throwing your business card and resume at whoever you can? In fact, you can network right in your classrooms!

Networking can totally be awkward, but applying some of your networking skills to the classroom allows you to get the most out of the experiences of those around you in a more casual environment.

Your Professors

A lot of professors are professionals in addition to their teaching job or they’ve worked years in their field. If they’ve worked in a field you’re interested in, there’s no harm in chatting with them about it! You should be attending your professor’s office hours anyway, so why not take the time to learn more about their career path? Express your interest in their career choices and don’t be afraid to ask questions! If, after listening to your professor, you’re still interested in that career choice, asking them how to get into that industry doesn’t hurt either.

You’re allowed to ask them what kinds of internships and jobs they held in the beginning, as well as how they go to where they are today. You’re also definitely allowed to ask them if they know someone to reach out to! If you see the conversation going well, there should be no reason why your professor will point you in the right direction. If anything else, they can definitely serve as a reference in the future. If they're okay with it, don't be afraid to connect with them on LinkedIn

Your Classmates

If you go to AU, you’re probably sitting between students who have held an internship or at least looked. Internships and jobs often come up in class conversation, so if something strikes your interest, don’t be afraid to ask that person about their experiences! Part of networking is putting yourself out there as someone interested in a certain field. Networking with a classmate, where you both mutually offer each other your professional experiences, is a great way to get yourself out there. Your classmate may be more likely to pass along an opportunity they’ve heard about or let you know about future internship opportunities at the place they’re currently working (they’ll also probably be able to tell you how to create the best application!), so definitely chat with your classmates. Just don’t forget to return the favor.

Guest Speakers

Guest speakers can be an excuse to tune out in class…or an opportunity to network. Guest speakers are typically brought in to teach something relevant about the class or discuss their professional experiences. Some are even alumni, so they’ve sat in your seat before. Ask questions! Find out how they go to be where they are today. Take notes, too. If they have a business card, make sure you take it! And, finally, some guest speakers will be as generous as to offer to meet up with anyone who has additional questions. Take advantage of that. If they’ve offered it, don’t feel weird about sending them a quick email and asking if they’d like to grab coffee. Like I said, many of the guest speakers I’ve seen are alumni or young professionals, so they know exactly what you’re going through. Just a half an hour discussion over coffee can help in expanding your repertoire of people you know and you make pick up a thing or two.

One last tip? Always ask for three more names. At the conclusion of the conversation, ask for three more names within a particular industry that interests you to continue networking and building up your professional address book and confidence, too. That was a tip I learned from a guest speaker!

Remember, networking doesn’t have to be stressful. It can be as easy as turning to the person sitting next you in class and saying hello.

 

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