By Kim Winters

For many college students, networking is intimidating. Nevertheless, it is vital to any graduate’s job search. Unlike online job sites, where one applicant can disappear in a tsunami of resumes, networking provides a personal connection to a company.

Matt Youngquist, the president of career-coaching and outplacement firm Career Horizons, stated in a recent NPR article that 70 to 80 percent of jobs are never published.

According to Youngquist, “…the vast majority of hiring is friends and acquaintances hiring other trusted friends and acquaintances.”

Networking matters, but what exactly does networking look like for a college student?

College students are constantly meeting new people. Every new class, club, organization and side job (yes, even the “flipping burgers” variety) is an opportunity to make social connections.

A classmate may become a colleague in a few short years. An acquaintance from work may become the next Steve Jobs, or he may just have a cousin who knows about an opportunity in your field. A professor is almost guaranteed to know people in the professional world.

Networking does not have to be calculated. It just comes down to being mindful.

Liz Wessel, CEO of job and internship platform, WayUp, urges students to stay in touch with people they meet at jobs and internships. A brief email, social media exchange or occasional lunch can keep your social network strong.

According to Wessel in a recent Forbes article, “…talk to absolutely everyone about your interests. You’d be surprised at how many people your friends and family know.”

Of course, students can also take a more targeted approach.

Wessel suggests cold emailing people about possible internships, job opportunities or just to meet someone in your field. People generally want to help others, and they are especially likely to assist eager students.

A polite email could completely change a student’s future.

Admittedly, just sending an introduction can feel presumptuous or awkward. Therefore, Jenny Blake, the author of “Life After College,” suggests a technique called “drafting.”

“If you find people who are one or two steps ahead in your industry and let them know that you’re really interested in their line of work, [you can] say, ‘Hey, if you have any overflow that you can’t handle, I would be happy to take it,” Blake said in a recent Business Insider article.

This allows you to help someone who may have too much work to do while gaining experience in your job field. If you stay in touch, that person might provide other opportunities for you later on, or you might be the one offering help.

That is the beauty of networking.

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