Networking in High School: The What, Why, and How
A Product of SuccessBaseMass and the Yale School of Medicine
Networking is usually nerve wracking for high school students, bringing thoughts of experienced professionals talking about their careers at galas and cocktail parties. In reality, networking is multifaceted, and is for people of all ages. Read on to learn what building a network really means, and different methods to doing it. You’ll likely realize that you’ve already started!
What is Networking?
Networking is the process of communicating with others to share information, and to form new relationships. This means that networking can include helping a friend understand a certain math concept, telling an aunt aunt about a niche store you’ve seen downtown, or sharing a cooking recipe with a teacher!
Why in high school?
High school is the best time to start networking! Not only will practicing now prepare you for the future, but you can also be introduced to new skills and opportunities that support your growth. Networking will help you join extracurriculars of your interest, learn to write cover letters, and find amazing jobs or internships.
Benefits That May Come From Networking
Though networking is mainly known for increased job opportunities, there are several other benefits! Some include:
Job shadowing - Experience a day in the life of someone working in your dream career! This will give you more information on the ins and outs if your dream job, and give you the opportunity to learn more about internships and opportunities pertaining to that career.
Invitations to conferences/workshops - Academic institutions, companies, and interest-based organizations hold several learning events for the general public, yet they're rarely spoken of. Members of these communities can give you an invite, which often leads to meeting even more people!
Personal Tour of Company/College - Are you an aspiring computer scientist hoping to work for google? Maybe a student who has their eye on a certain college? Networking with employees or relatives/friends of employees can get you an insider's look!
Learning new skills - People, including friends, family, and teachers, can help you with the following:
Writing/structuring a resume
Writing a professional email
Writing a cover letter
How to present yourself during an interview
These skills will help you can even more opportunities in the long run.
Connections to jobs/internships - teachers, friends, and relatives can keep you in the know about opportunities offered by their work places and colleagues!
Connection to a professional in your field of interest - those you know may be acquaintances with authors, chemists, or veterinarians that you can learn from. Be sure to form these connections and ask questions! Who knows...? They may be looking for an apprentice!
Connections to Scholarships - Often, companies and organizations will have small scholarships that are difficult to find on llarge search engines. Yet, employees or friends of employees can keep you in the know!
References and Letters of Recommendation - By connecting with others, sharing your interests, and working with them frequently, they are able to see the amazing, hard-working parts of you. This will allow them to become great choices for letter of rec writers, which is needed for college applications, internships, and several jobs.
Common Networking Methods
Networking comes in several forms, so you’re likely networking without realizing it! Below are a few of the most common methods (hover over images to see a few awesome anecdotes!):
“I founded the newspaper club at my high school, and the English department head at my school found out about my endeavors and connected me with one of her contacts at the Boston Globe, Mr. Joe Sullivan. Mr. Sullivan joined the newspaper staff team as an advisor and guided us toward a professional direction as the paper expanded. It was really helpful to have someone with professional experience be a part of the team. I learned more about professional journalism, and was opened to a new way of thinking about the world.”
2. Joining Clubs or Volunteering
You can meet new people and diversity your network by joining new activities! Many students meet people in different age ranges, and are exposed to new opportunities (such as school trips, workshops, or scholarships) by being part of a team. With volunteering in particular, you are able to learn more about your community while giving back to it, often meeting people that you could not have met in school.
“I had always been interested in environmental engineering, but didn’t know much about the field. A bit nervous, I emailed New England Women in Energy and the Environment (NEWIEE) to ask how I, and other high school students, could learn more about environmental careers. Together, we made a career mailing group for high school students, and I’ve been able to communicate with environmental engineers, access workshops, and attend galas along the way.”
4. Attending Seminars, Conferences, or Workshops
Informational events allow immense sharing of knowledge between individuals, so be sure to attend any that pique your interests! Not only can you connect with other attendees, but you can also seek advice from the speaker. Ask questions, and don’t be shy to ask speakers for their contact information to express gratitude or ask follow-up questions afterwards (while being respectful of their time!). Many students have learned more about their interests, or received opportunities, by connecting with guest speakers.
"I think one of the biggest misconceptions about networking is that getting a job or an internship needs to be the end goal. Networking can lead to a myriad of outcomes. You may be able to meet a friend to work on cool projects with or find a mentor who can help you develop a skill you want to learn. You might connect with someone only for advice or a nice conversation. I met one of my friends through a symposium where I was displaying a poster project related to emotion AI. She came over to me and we had a long conversation about machine learning, technology, and some of the interests we wanted to develop. I was more into design, and she was passionate about software engineering. After the event, we exchanged contact info, and started working on building projects together in our free time to add to our portfolios."
1. Talking to Teachers, Guidance Counselors, or Friends about Your Interests
When telling others about your interests or goals for the future, you gain access to opportunities they hear about, or skill sets they offer! In a way, their network becomes your network - you can be connected to professionals in your field of interest that are colleagues of theirs, or be the first person on their mind when coming across an internship opportunity.
“Once, I volunteered for a museum event. Another volunteer happened to be an environmental engineer from the EPA! I was (nervously) able to get his email, and asked him about his career path. He gave thorough answers to my questions, and advice on how to get through my environmental studies. The correspondence solidified my interest in the field.”
3. Joining Professional Organizations
Professional organizations allow those with specific interests or identities to connect! Examples include the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), International Game Developers Association (IGDA), and National Cartoonists Society (NCS), along with thousands of others. There is a common misconception that these organizations are only for adults. Yet, more than anything, these societies want to engage with more youth. They want to support the leaders of the future!
"For networking at a conference, use the Q&A portion to ask questions or even just go up to them following their presentation and tell them that you thought what they talked about was interesting and ask for their contact info. Then send them a message and not be afraid to tell the person that you want to connect with that you’re interested in their field of work and that you want to learn more. I went to a networking event that involved entrepreneurs at my college and I just got talking with the professionals at the event."
5. Social Media
Online platforms offer significant opportunities for networking. Students have showcased their skillsets on Instagram, participated in collaborations on YouTube, and helped each other with scholarship applications on Reddit. Posting about your interests and responding to others are first steps towards invaluable connections.
The most popular networking platform is LinkedIn, and even if you don’t post too much now, it’s important to make an account in high school. You can connect with your friends, follow organizations of interests, talk about your accomplishments, and see inspiring posts.
Don’t feel overwhelmed with the need to try all of these methods, or seek people that will give you all of the networking benefits. But don’t be afraid! Based on your interests, try joining new clubs, and reaching out to potential contacts that pique your fascination. You’ll be glad you did.
Take our networking quiz! Find out what type of networker you're most like, and a recommendation we have in having you expand your network.
Job Stars provides a list of professional organizations for each industry of interest. Check out a few! Also, these lists are by no means all-includive. If none of the professional organizations feel just right, search a few more!