Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Networking And The College Student - Sophomore Year Experience (SYE)

When it comes to networking and college students there is a lot of attention placed on seniors and freshmen.

Obviously seniors are looking for jobs.... and thus the focus on networking makes sense. Career centers work hard to try to teach soon-to-be graduates about how to position themselves for getting that first job.

Freshmen are a centerpiece of the development money invested by universities because they are new to the school and studies show that those that create solid friendships in the first semester are more likely to remain enrolled.  There are entire programs built around "First Year Experience" (also known as FYE) to help these students transition into their college life.

But the "Sophomore Year Experience" (SYE) can be pivotal in creating the habits that lead these young adults toward establishing long-term and mutually beneficial relationships.  Showing up to as a freshman can mean living in a dorm, having many scheduled activities and people around all the time.  Friends all live together on the same floor, but the next year can mean putting in extra effort to keep friendships active.

At any age it is easy for people to drift apart from each other, but sophomore year can be the first experience living in an apartment, commuting to campus, and more than a year removed from high school friends.  Facebook contacts without ongoing dialogue is not a network, and sophomores can find themselves slipping through the cracks.  Social media can be helpful, but often is more of a facade to the real friendships that people need to succeed.

When I speak to college students I find it can be the sophomores who need to most help with relationships.  By their junior year their friendships are often solid, and it is harder to change the habits created in cultivating connections.  Life-long bonds are common for those who attend college together, but some people need help in learning how to creating meaningful connections.

More colleges and universities are realizing the importance of teaching their students to network.  Recruiting brochures tout the power of the alumni network, but few are ever taught how to capitalize on the opportunities presented by being a college student.  Too many students get lost in the crowd.

I spoke recently to a "Young Professionals Organization" and found these career-minded twenty-somethings actively taking notes and asking questions.  Many had an "Ah-Ha" look on their faces as I explained how networking really worked.  Misconceptions stripped away, the group was excited to attend future networking events, instead of grimacing at the thought. One women queried why "networking skills" were never taught at her college.  She was mad that her expensive education left out this powerful part of her success toolbox.

I had a group of residence hall directors tell me that it is the sophomore year that can mean the most in the success of many students, and that smart schools are going beyond their "First Year Experience" investments and embracing the educational programs for the "Second Year Experience".  Makes sense to me!

When sophomores are engaged in cultivating friendships they are making contacts that can bring opportunities to them throughout their lives.  The sooner one begins establishing habits of making people a priority, the sooner they will reap the benefits that come from having a strong network.

Waiting until senior year can be too late!

How about you.... at what point in college did you make and cement the most important contacts from your college years?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

"Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Graduates" is available at Amazon.com

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