"It's not what you know, it's who you know." - Every modern business professional
You may or may not have heard many people use this phrase in classes, work, talks, presentations, but what does it actually mean? Do you need to get a degree if you have to know people to get a good job? Short answer: Yes, a degree or certification is how you get the skills necessary to be qualified to work in the business world. However, knowing people in your desired workplace, or even just someone who's career is what you're studying, can be a very helpful tool in building your career, whether it be one company forever, or several over a period of time.
Where do I start building a network?
While this question can seem daunting, the answer is relatively simple: anywhere. The easiest way is to join organizations at college that align with your interests, or what you want to do after college. Delta Sigma Pi is a great example of this; students coming together with similar interests to help each other grow professionally, and learn and develop skills to help them in their college and professional careers. Other examples of great places to get involved are: the American Marketing Association; Women in Business; the Advertising Club; social, religious, or academic/honors greek life/societies, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; the Black Student Union; Student Senate; etc.!
Another way to get an insight into a specific company you're interested in working for is to ask your professors. Typically, your class syllabus will include some basic information about your professor, but they will usually also talk about their job experience on the first day of class.
How do I stay in touch with my network?
There are two easy ways to keep in touch with connections, no matter where you make them: Having a LinkedIn profile, or carrying business cards.
In today's business world, everyone should have a LinkedIn account. It is, essentially, an online resume and helps employers see you are engaged in business. College students typically have relevant work experience, volunteer experience, leadership experience, and relevant courses taken, to show how they are preparing for after college. It should also include extracurricular activities you are involved in, and any leadership positions held. It is also helpful to have your URL be your name, so that connections can easily find you, or it's easy to share. It should also contain a professional headshot as your profile picture!
Here is a brother's LinkedIn profile for an idea of what it could include. A lot of people have different preferences about what should be included in one's profile, but if you think about it like an online resume, it will help with what you think is relevant information for potential employers.
Business cards are a great resource to have on hand when attending career fairs, conferences, tours, etc. They are a simple way to hand out information to multiple people at once, without having to repeat yourself. Also, if you are the only person with business cards at an event, it makes you more likely to be remembered! They're easy to make, and Avery.com lets you print them for free at home, if you purchase the perforated paper at your local grocery store.
All you need is some simple information: your name, email, phone number, and organization/college. It is also helpful to put your position in an organization or club, if you have a leadership position. Or, if you don't have a leadership position, you can put your major(s)/minor(s) that you are studying. Here are a brother's business cards, as a reference: