Ambassador Post: How To Network as an Aspiring Student Entrepreneur
This is a guest post by Entrepreneurship Student Ambassador and President, Anas Affane. Anas is a senior at NC State studying Business Administration in the Poole College of Management with a concentration in entrepreneurship and a minor in statistics.
As my time as an undergraduate student at NC State University is coming to an end as I graduate in May 2021, my experiences in earning a B.S. in Business Administration with a concentration in entrepreneurship and my role as a student ambassador for NC State Entrepreneurship have led me to write this article. I am humbled to share my personal insights on how to network effectively as an aspiring entrepreneurial student.
Let me begin by addressing one of the biggest myths associated with entrepreneurship. Do you need to have a start-up to be involved in entrepreneurship? The answer is simple, no. Entrepreneurship is a mindset. The entrepreneurial mindset is the ability to help drive change through innovation. A mindset that recognizes opportunities easily and understands how one can define solutions for those opportunities. An entrepreneurial mindset can be applied in a new venture of your own, a venture you can join, or a larger corporation that can still be entrepreneurial in nature.
The Importance of Networking
Networking is an essential part of your entrepreneurial journey. As a student, it is important to connect with established entrepreneurs as connections, mentors, and partners. Oftentimes, you are just one connection away from everything you desire.
How to Network
Networking can be intimidating at first, but like any other skill, practice makes perfect. My biggest piece of advice I can give you is to get involved early. A university like NC State provides so many opportunities and resources for its students to succeed. It is your job to take advantage of every single one.
That brings us to our first step in the process, becoming involved. Research and apply to be a part of entrepreneurship programs and affiliates. Take an entrepreneurship course. Hang out at the entrepreneurship clinic or Garage. Do not get discouraged because you are going alone. Take the first initiative and you will be amazed at how inspirational your peers are.
The next step is to be aware of networking etiquette. Present yourself well. Use a firm handshake and make eye contact. Pitches can become robotic. Instead, be equipped to market yourself on the spot adjusting to that specific person or situation. Be confident and comfortable. Understand that the people you will come across are human too. They connect best through real emotion so naturally be yourself and share your unique story. First impressions can be lasting impressions.
Don’t underestimate the power of the network you already have. One of your biggest assets as a student is your professors and program leaders. Your professors and program leaders have met past and current students just as passionate about entrepreneurship as you are who have gone to do great things. They may have had the same questions that you do. Most likely if you approach one of your professors or program leaders explaining what your interests, passions, and goals are, they will do everything they can to help push you in the right direction.
An aspect of effective networking is to have an understanding of why you are networking. Determine your purpose ahead of time. You will find that as you go through the journey of your college career your purpose can and will change. For example, as a freshman, your purpose could be as simple as discovering what entrepreneurship really is. And by the time you are a senior you might find yourself asking more specific questions such as how do I raise capital for my start-up, how do I market my product effectively, or how do I further develop myself as an entrepreneur leader. Preparing that understanding in advance will help you ask more insightful questions and allow you to optimize the value you receive from networking. Ask questions and ask them often.
The key factor of networking is to stay in touch with your connections. The process does not end once the event or program is over. Be sure to give and receive contact information. Utilize your online presence. Utilize your NC State email as much as possible as people are more inclined to respond when they see that connection to the university. Send an email or personalized LinkedIn message to further the conversation. Maintain an active profile by sharing your experiences with the rest of your network. Following up with your network continues those relationships and preserves those connections.
Your network is a process that should always be evolving. You never know when you may need to call upon one of your connections. Networking will always be an essential part of your college career and beyond. With that being said, my name is Anas Affane. I am grateful for the opportunity to be involved with the entrepreneurial community here at NC State. Feel free to connect with me anytime and I wish you all the best of luck on your entrepreneurial journey.
Click here to connect with Anas via LinkedIn.