7 Ways to Grow Your Students’ Networks this Summer

career counselors
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career counselors

(This post was updated on 6/22/2020)

The summer months typically offer a quiet time for career counselors to tie up loose ends from the previous school year, check in with students working summer internships, and prepare for the fall semester career fair. Even with the world operating virtually this summer, it’s still a valuable time for networking and sparking new relationships with employers. 

Career counselors are the bridge to building lasting connections as students transition from academics to the business world. No doubt, you’ve witnessed firsthand the positive impact networking has on your students’ careers. It allows students to connect with mentors, find internship opportunities, and even land jobs before graduation. This year is no different.

Of course, you’ve already guided students toward building a strong network, but times are changing. Share some of these networking ideas with your students to help them make new connections this summer:

1. Attend virtual networking events

While you may not be able to get out of the office this summer, you can still attend virtual networking events. Networking “luncheons” and “happy hours” on Zoom create opportunities for students to meet new professionals and employers across a variety of fields and industries.

Take student networking one step further by encouraging them to attend networking events in surrounding cities. Since everything is virtual right now, this will be easier than ever. 

Students often look for jobs outside of the town where they attend college, so having a network that stretches across the region is vital. You’ll also expand your network and get your university on the radar as a school that produces bright talent. 

2. Tap into faculty networks

College professors offer a gold mine of networking opportunities. After all, many professors are experts in their fields and have strong industry connections. They also keep in touch with former students who have jobs in their industry, which offers a great way to build your network for current students.

Email faculty in each department, requesting information about their employer connections. You can also ask if they know about new internship programs or job opportunities. Make sure to add any information you receive to your database and to follow up with each connection.

3. Use LinkedIn groups to meet new people

Encourage students to expand their networks by joining industry-specific LinkedIn groups that relate to programs they learned about from career services. They should engage with each group and identify professionals who could be potential connections.

After they’ve made a few connections, send follow-up emails to see if they’re interested in meeting for a video chat or scheduling a phone call to learn more about their expertise. Continuing to meet up will help you keep the relationship strong beyond LinkedIn.

4. Stay in touch with current students throughout the summer

Even though college students are busy working summer jobs and internships, show you are committed to success by checking in with them throughout the summer. 

Send a brief email asking how their summer is going. If they’re doing an internship, ask about their experience and what they’ve learned so far. You can also remind them to network during their internship and to stay in touch with other interns and co-workers after the internship wraps up. 

5. Touch base with current connections

As college students are off enjoying summer vacation, it’s your prime time as a career counselor to nurture your network for the upcoming school year. Use the slow summer days to schedule coffee and lunch Zoom meetings with employers and connections you may have fallen out of touch with during the busy school year.

6. Check-in with recent graduates

Recent graduates are excellent connections who can strengthen your students’ networks. In fact, many of your current students probably know recent graduates who are now working in their respective fields.

As you check-in with recent graduates to see how their jobs are going, ask if their employers offer internship programs, or have entry-level positions available. You could also see if the graduate would be interested in mentoring current students since they have recently wrapped up their job search.

7. Plan a back-to-school virtual mixer

Jumpstart your students’ job search by hosting a virtual back-to-school networking mixer. Send invites to some of the new connections you made over the summer, recent graduates, and returning students. Start as one big group on a video call and break up into smaller groups for ice breakers so people can get to know each other.

Remember, this doesn’t have to be a formal job fair. This mixer is an opportunity for students to connect with potential mentors and chat with professionals in their field. Plus, it will also get them thinking about their network and internship or job search.

What are some of your favorite strategies for building a strong network for your students?

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta, Managing Director of CareerShift, co-founded the company in 2005 to help individuals bridge the gap between education and employment.  As a recognized expert in the field, Val is a frequent speaker on career management, networking, and job hunting strategies.  You can connect with her and the CareerShift team on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.