Networking is a popular buzzword in the working world, but what is it, and why should students start in college? Networking means using the contacts in your life to help get career advice, tips on job openings, and even referrals. Studies show that 60 to 90 percent of jobs are found as a result of personal contacts (friends, relatives, and other connections), so networking is advantageous and should begin in your college career. 

Here are five ways to start networking as an undergraduate:

  1. To begin, start making meaningful and sincere connections with your peers and professors. People are more willing to help you when they get to know you. Attend office hours and study groups to build up these relationships. 
  2. Ask colleagues and professors about job or internship openings. These individuals may know about opportunities that would otherwise fly under your radar or are unadvertised. Also, be prepared to help out your friends when they ask you for networking help!
  3. Think outside the box when you are networking and don’t restrict yourself to just one field. Many jobs and internships today are interdisciplinary, so even your English or Sociology professors may know about an exciting job for that could use a mathematics student. 
  4. Be prepared to talk about your career goals and qualifications, especially when talking to a professor or a mentor. Having clear and concise goals will help them place you with the right connection, and it will be easy to remember when they are talking about them. 
  5. Join a club or become a student member of a professional association. Clubs and associations have opportunities to network at events and places online to meet others in your desired field. Professional associations, like the Mathematical Association of America, also give out travel grants and student discounts to help students jumpstart their networking at meetings and conferences. 

Not only will networking help you find a job or internship after graduation, but it will also help you grow professional contacts who will continue beyond your time as an undergraduate and may be useful later in your career.