7 Ways to Grow Your Students’ Networks this Summer


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The summer months 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. Most importantly, it’s a great time for networking and sparking new relationships with employers.

Every school year, Barbara, a career counselor, witnessed firsthand the positive impact networking had on her students’ careers. She has helped connect students with mentors, find internship opportunities, and even land jobs before graduation.

Although Barbara already has a strong network, she knows it’s time to make new connections for her students. If you’re a career counselor like Barbara, try some of these networking ideas this summer:

1. Attend summer networking events.

Get out of the office this summer and attend networking events in your community. Networking luncheons and happy hours present opportunities to meet new professionals and employers across a variety of fields and industries.

Take your networking one step further by attending networking events in surrounding cities. Students often look for jobs outside of the city where they attend college, so having a network that stretches across the region is key. You’ll also expand your own network and get your university on the radar as a school that produces bright talent.

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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.

Expand your network by joining industry-specific LinkedIn groups that relate to programs at your school. Engage with each group and identify professionals who could be potential connections for your students.

After you’ve made a couple connections, send follow-up emails to see if they’re interested in meeting for coffee or scheduling a phone call to learn more about their expertise. This 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 their success by checking in with them throughout the summer.

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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 to nurture your network for the upcoming school year. Use the slow summer days to schedule coffee and lunch 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 that can strengthen your students’ networks. In fact, many of your current students probably know a recent graduate who is now working in their respective field.

As you check in with recent graduates to see how their jobs are going, ask if their employer offers an internship program or has 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 mixer.

A 2017 CareerBuilder survey of 2,380 hiring managers found three in five employers said they planned to give students offers before graduation. Jumpstart your students’ job search by hosting a back-to-school networking mixer.

Send invites to some of the new connections you made over the summer, recent graduates, and returning students. Keep the mixer fun and casual by having snacks, refreshments, and even hosting a raffle or t-shirt giveaway.

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 your favorite strategies for building a strong network for your students?

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta is the co-owner and leader of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution for companies, outplacement firms, job seekers and university career centers. You can connect with her and the CareerShift team on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, LinkedIn.