How Do We Get Students to Care About Networking?

A professor at Owen asked “how do we get students to care more about networking?” He was probably even asking how to encourage them to DO IT — grow their network, nurture relationships.

My response started off with “you know the complaint about most professors is they don’t seem to care about career stuff. They teach their discipline, but don’t even talk about job search, career management, networking, or any of that stuff. How many professors actually network on their own??”

I probably started that response off wrong, however, I’ve heard it a lot and I saw it at Idaho State University, where I got my undergraduate and my MBA.

The last part of my response was better: “Let them know that they’ll probably be changing jobs every two years, for their entire career.” He liked that answer more 🙂

Two points about those “every two year” job changes:

  1. They might be with the same company. I don’t want to preach doom and gloom about this – it still is possible to stay with one company for a long time. But you’ll probably be in different departments of capacities during your tenure there.
  2. The job changes are not all going to be on your own terms. Getting laid off, downsized, reduction-in-forced (RIFed) are all in your future (probably).

It’s a lot easier for me to sell someone on the concept of JibberJobber after they’ve been beat up a few times in their career… maybe the message to students would be better accepted after they’ve been working at a few different companies.

Finally, I regularly ask myself how to get older professional to care about networking :p

This post is brought to you by Wendy Terwelp, the Networking Coach and founder of Rock Your Network®.  Wendy Terwelp helps execs network without begging online and off. And she is only two degrees from Kevin Bacon. Since 1989, Wendy has helped thousands be rock stars at work and get paid what they’re worth through networking, branding, and coaching. Wendy has been quoted in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Fast Company, The Business Journal, The Philadelphia Inquirer,,, as well as several radio shows. She’s written countless articles for numerous career websites, blogs, and publications. Speaking gigs include: Barnes & Noble, Women’s Life Expo, professional organizations, universities, and more. Visit her web site at for tons of free tips to help you get ready for your next big gig.  Wendy is a JibberJobber Career Expert Partner.



7 thoughts on “How Do We Get Students to Care About Networking?”

  1. I’m a recent graduate student from the University of Illinois and most of our networking is done online. I tried getting contacts on linkedIn from past employers and college professors but none seem to be online networking yet. I would give it time for both generations to come together.

  2. I wish I knew how to get my friends / family more interested in networking, using JibberJobber, LinkedIn, etc, and many of them are currently awaiting the BIG R.I.F… It is definitely a whole new world; I’m evangelizing one person at a time.

  3. It really depends on the student. If the student gets involved and really shows interest, networking opportunities are everywhere.

    Professors for the most part are there to teach their material, grade and move on.

    I’ve had several professors (Undergrad and Grad) that helped me out during my career search and networking. This is mainly due to the fact that I got involved and actually CARED about the material.

  4. I always tell colleagues and students that they should update their resumes as soon as they get a job. It’s not about planning to leave a job as soon as you get it but rather being prepared for the unexpected. If you’re part of a large layoff, you’ll then be one step head of everyone else and let’s face it, they could be your competition for your next position.

  5. I think a lot of students have the tools and are already doing it . Whether it is IM, text, whatever it is a question of learning how to use it another way and many are communities. ( which gets marketed heavily – who is in your network).
    I suggest to some start a career portfolio in high school which some already do. With jobs, letters of recommendation, accomplishments, a snapshot. Then start thinking about the mission statements etc.

    Simply a lot are doing it the trick is to adapt it for other uses like careers etc. I think many will grow into it as a logical progression. I know some who already have.

  6. The biggest thing we can do is make it RELEVANT to their desired career. They won’t care until it personally affects them. How do I know this? I was one of them. I didn’t think about online networking until I wanted an online presence and a community to share it with. I didn’t care about in person networking until my career choice made it relevant.

    We all network in some fashion our whole lives. In school we join clubs, associations and fraternities (or sororities) and do it that way. In our careers we use professional organizations and associations. The common link is that it relevant to what we do or what we want to do. So our goal would be more to get them involved in the areas in which they like and desire to work.

    On a side note, if that don’t work, tell them that it will increase their salary exponentially in the long run and open way more doors than they could ever imagine! Money always seems to motivate.

  7. I’m sure I’d ever seek out career expertise from a professor. I have great respect for what they know but I’m not sure they could teach a great deal about networking. The difficulty for professors is that when they walk into a company to aid in solving a problem, they are treated considerably different than someone coming in as an employee. We all know expertise outside the organization is perceived as greater than that inside the organization. So, their advice would be a little skewed. I think we should stick with the systems designed for networking. The best advice comes from the people that know. I’ve got three kids and watched them all during the birthing process but I can’t tell you what it feels like. You better ask Mom on that one!

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