Building networks enriches experiences

Everyone knows that Tech students are smart (or so we like to think). The rigorous, top-ranked academic curricula at Tech have a reputation for intellectually preparing students for a successful career after they graduate.

But can students rely solely on the clout and reputation of a Tech degree to ensure future financial security? In most cases, the answer to that question is no. In these tough economic times, jobs are being slashed left and right.

It is no longer enough to just be a college graduate—companies with the good jobs are searching for candidates that stand out. While there are countless ways to “stand out,” I feel that many people overlook one of the simplest ways to differentiate themselves: to build a network.

I am referring to the act of making a conscious effort to step outside one’s comfort zone to reach out to a person or group of people that you wouldn’t have normally reached out to. Having a prior connection and knowing people in general definitely has a significant impact on your chances of being successful.

Why? Because by making a connection with one person, you are making a connection with a bunch of other people. Building these relationships is a great way to get ahead. Most people in favorable positions got there by identifying and using the relationships with the people around them.

Building relationships is the key to success, but who has the time? Tech students already have a million things to do in regards to classes alone, and factoring in extra-curriculars, fun and sleep time makes it difficult to squeeze in some seemingly unimportant “let’s meet some new people that I don’t know” time.

Some people criticize networking, equating it to superficial face time with little or no impact on the future. That is definitely not true. It is the chance encounters from people outside your usual circles that could make big differences in the future. You could end up meeting a future colleague, a future employer or even a future best friend.

This all might sound trivial, since you might be saying to yourself, “Well, duh, of course you have to network and talk to people to be successful.” But I also mean it in a more general sense. Taking a few steps back, consider the different demographic groups that comprise the student population at Tech: freshmen, upperclassmen, grad students, Greeks, non-Greeks and cultural affinity groups begin to scratch the surface of trying to describe Tech’s students.

Now think about how often members from two or more of the groups mentioned above hold events together, or even interact with each other. Generally speaking, these occurrences are relatively rare when they do not have to be.

It all stems back from the overall culture of decentralization at Tech. For instance, there are many communication platforms like T-Square, Zimbra and BuzzPort. Similar features exist between all of them, but they are all disjointed even though they could benefit from being consolidated. Similarly, student groups at Tech often remain apart, even if they could benefit by interacting with each other.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong believer that Tech’s diversity is one of its strong points. However, there seems to be a lack of unity among the diverse groups. There are countless relationships and commonalities that students could benefit from and appreciate, but the bridges between these groups do not exist.

Networking is that bridge between us and the rest of society. We make the effort to allocate time to spend with friends and people we already know, but we should also allocate some time to meeting new people. It only takes less than a minute to meet someone and make a connection.

These connections are essential because they allow us to grow and develop a sense of the world around us. Being the social creatures that we are, humans have the capability to learn from one another. People should be eager to establish new relationships with others that are radically different in order to gain a wider perspective on life.

We could all benefit from taking a leap once in a while to expand our networks. Whether it is mustering up the courage to walk up to a company executive or even sitting down with a stranger at lunch, weaving a web of relationships pays off. Even if it does not result in an immediate benefit, we benefit from networking by gaining a better understanding of the constantly living, breathing and changing world around us.