A quality resume is certainly a necessity. For many jobs, counting on people in your professional network to speak positively on your behalf may carry more weight than even the most well-crafted resume and cover letter. However, developing a network can be difficult and time consuming. Despite the challenges, it is essential you build a network early on in your professional life.

Choose Your Major Early
According to a study by Dr. Fritz Grupe, founder of MyMajors.com, 50% of college students changed their majors at least once while in college. Unless your new major is closely related to your original major, your professional network will most likely have to be rebuilt completely from scratch. However, you shouldn't stay enrolled in a major you don't like. The sooner you can decide on the career path that's right for you, the sooner you can begin to build your network.

Social Media
Social media sites like LinkedIn are very effective network building tools. These platforms provide opportunities to build relationships with others. You can read up on the best way to make LinkedIn work for you. Participating in LinkedIn groups related to your field can be a great way to get conversations started.

Find the Executives
If you're a college student, building a network full of other college students might allow you to exchange ideas, but it will likely do very little to help you get a job or move up in your current position. Look for executives, managers and others already established in the industry. It may be intimidating at first, but the more you practice the better you'll become. Starting conversations with upper-level executives is a skill that will pay off when you start interviewing for jobs.

Join a Group
Nearly every career path has a professional organization. Often, these groups will offer discounts for student members. Once you're a member, you'll likely receive invitations to industry conferences and other events. Even if you don't have a business card, have some cards with your contact information to pass out as you meet people. If you're a college student, professional conferences, especially those close to your school, are events that should be attended.

Intern
One of the best ways to build a professional network is to volunteer or accept an intern position. Interns that stand out because of superior work ethic and attention to detail will quickly build connections who would be happy to be used as references. Many interns are later offered jobs at the companies they intern with. Getting paid nothing for a while can often lead to your first job.

Think About Your Personal Network
Talk to your extended family and friends. They may know people who have the potential to be valuable members of your professional network. You can use Facebook and Twitter to reconnect with people you haven't spoken to in a long time in an effort to build your professional network.

Write an Article
As you progress through your major and gain specialized knowledge, you should consider writing an article in exchange for a byline with your contact information. Even a community newsletter might attract the attention of somebody who could be a valuable resource to you in the future.

The Bottom Line
A strong resume is important, but in an environment where there are more graduating college students than available jobs, any opening will result in a large amount of resumes. Even your well-crafted resume will be one of many strong resumes reviewed by the hiring manager. Your professional network should move you to the top of the stack. Without that network, your chances of standing out are much lower.

Related Articles
  1. Professionals

    Is A Stockbroker Career For You?

    Becoming a stockbroker requires a broad skill set and the willingness to put in long hours. But the rewards can be enormous.
  2. Professionals

    Broker Or Trader: Which Career Is Right For You?

    Both brokers and traders buy and sell securities, but there are some subtle differences between the two careers.
  3. Stock Analysis

    3 Obscure Twitter Accounts Making Money Off of You (TWTR)

    Learn how Twitter accounts that share quotes or information, such as @HistoryInPics and @Notebook, make money from their audiences.
  4. Investing Basics

    How to Become A Self-Taught Financial Expert

    Becoming a self-taught financial expert may not be as daunting of a task as it seems.
  5. Professionals

    Financial Career Options For Professionals

    A career in finance can take a business professional down many different paths.
  6. FA

    The Basics of The Series 79 Exam

    Passing the Series 79 exam is usually necessary for anyone who wants to work in investment banking.
  7. Professionals

    10 Steps To A Career In Hedge Funds

    The first step to getting your hedge fund career started is to be sure you really want to work for a hedge fund. If you do, it’ll show in your actions.
  8. Personal Finance

    University Donations: Which Schools Got the Most

    A closer look at the staggering $40.3 billion donated to colleges and universities in 2015.
  9. Professionals

    Business Analyst: Job Description & Average Salary

    Learn the different types of business analyst careers available; understand the skills and education needed and the salary you can expect to make.
  10. Entrepreneurship

    How To Make Money With Domain Names

    Domain names are hot commodities in today’s tech-centric world, and for good reason.
RELATED FAQS
  1. What's the difference between microeconomics and macroeconomics?

    Microeconomics is generally the study of individuals and business decisions, macroeconomics looks at higher up country and ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What’s the difference between the two federal student loan programs (FFEL and Direct)?

    The short answer is that one loan program still exists (Federal Direct Loans) and one was ended by the Health Care and Education ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Does a financial advisor need an MBA?

    Obtaining a license as a financial adviser does not require an Master's of Business Administration (MBA) degree. The Certified ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Student loans, federal and private: what's the difference?

    The cost of a college education now rivals many home prices, making student loans a huge debt that many young people face ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Can I use my IRA to pay for my college loans?

    If you are older than 59.5 and have been contributing to your IRA for more than five years, you may withdraw funds to pay ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Can I use my 401(k) to pay for my college loans?

    If you are over 59.5, or separate from your plan-sponsoring employer after age 55, you are free to use your 401(k) to pay ... Read Full Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Flight To Quality

    The action of investors moving their capital away from riskier investments to the safest possible investment vehicles. This ...
  2. Discouraged Worker

    A person who is eligible for employment and is able to work, but is currently unemployed and has not attempted to find employment ...
  3. Ponzimonium

    After Bernard Madoff's $65 billion Ponzi scheme was revealed, many new (smaller-scale) Ponzi schemers became exposed. Ponzimonium ...
  4. Quarterly Earnings Report

    A quarterly filing made by public companies to report their performance. Included in earnings reports are items such as net ...
  5. Dark Pool Liquidity

    The trading volume created by institutional orders that are unavailable to the public. The bulk of dark pool liquidity is ...
Trading Center