Just the sound of that word makes me feel excluded. Who wants to network? Why would I want to put myself out there? As much as the word might make me cringe, I often wish that I had known how to talk to people about my passion earlier in life. It not only would have helped my career, but I suspect it would have also helped me learn where to focus.
Over the years, I’ve learned that real networking is not quite as scary as our culture makes it out to be. It’s really just the act of meeting and talking with like-minded people who genuinely care about similar things.
For many of us, knowing how to authentically connect to new people, or furthering our connections with the people we already know, will often be extremely helpful in ways we might never expect, either externally (i.e. they will try to help us) or internally (i.e. we will have an insight about our own goals that we wouldn’t have had we kept it to ourselves).
Reach out to teachers
As a tutor, I try to encourage my students to network without actually telling them to network. Rather, I suggest something simpler and less intimidating such as scheduling a meeting with their sophomore year math teacher to talk about their college plan. If the meeting goes well and the teacher seems confident about the student’s future plans, I encourage them to ask the teacher to write them a recommendation letter. I’ve found it to be a much better approach than a cold email in November when everyone else is crawling out of the woodwork to do the same.
Reach out to college friends or alumni
With students who feel comfortable going further, I prompt them to think about people who went to the schools they are passionate about. I encourage them to send an email letting the student or alum know they’re applying to their school or alma mater, and asking if they have time to chat about it.
It’s important to note the while I don’t necessarily think these conversations with students and alumni lead to improved admissions chances, I’m confident that at the very least this person will get to know my student and teach them something about the school they didn’t previously know. It might encourage or discourage my student’s choice to apply to that school thus having a direct effect on the next 4 years of life. And who knows, maybe that alumnus is looking for a summer intern?
Use social media
Many high school students might not directly know someone who went to the schools they want to apply to.
In this case, I suggest to my students that they run a search through their Facebook and Instagram networks to see if they can find a more distant connection, such as a sibling or parent of an acquaintance. This strategy can be even more relevant once admission letters are received.
If my student has options to choose from, it’s very likely they’ll want to talk to someone who’s currently attending that school to hear about their experience. They will most likely learn something they didn’t know, but, more importantly, they’ll hone the skill of interacting with strangers in a graceful way, which they will need ever more urgently as they try to break into the job market after college.
Embrace the unexpected benefits
In some instances, these conversations might actually aid a student in their chances of acceptance.
In the last academic year, I was working with a student who was extremely shy. In fact, his essay was partially about his feelings surrounding his social awkwardness. As I talked to him about where he wanted to apply, he mentioned he knew someone who went to a school he was interested in through an internship he did the previous summer. I encouraged that student to reach out to the alum. He was surprised when the alum invited him to his office to chat. Imagine my student’s further surprise when this person, more senior than my student’s supervisor, insisted on writing him a recommendation letter!
My student ended up attending a different college for a variety of reasons, however that experience taught him a great deal about overcoming his own insecurities and helped to instill the value of reaching out and connecting with people.
Brooklyn Math Tutors works extensively with college applicants. If you are interested in our services, do not hesitate to write to us at Team@Brooklynmathtutors.com