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How can I network effectively as a college student?

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Anonymous User at Taro Communitya year ago

I want to network with more senior engineers, especially those in the Taro community and within the companies I intern at, but I am scared to approach them.

I ask myself "what would make it interesting/fun/educational for someone to talk to me or mentor me?" (Rahul's advice here), but I can't really think of a reason why someone would want to talk to a college student like me. I don't want a coffee chat to feel like I'm just bombarding them with questions, but I also find it difficult to bring anything valuable to the table.

How can I effectively network with others with limited experience as a college student? What would make an engineer want to chat with and/or mentor a college student?

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  • 1
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a year ago

    Put yourself out there! If you're in college, you have probably been alive on Earth for at least 20 years. There's no way you don't have something interesting to share with people - It doesn't need to be some brilliant software engineer thing! Check out our video here where we explain how anyone can add value to anyone else: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome - You Have So Much More Value Than You Realize

    Here's some ideas off the top of my head in terms of how you can add value to people:

    1. Give insights on your school - A lot of folks are considering going back to school for a Master's or PhD. If your school is well-known, there's a decent chance they're considering going there. You can add value by explaining the culture and tech programs.
    2. Talk about the value of school for SWEs - Many engineers didn't come from a traditional university background (career switch, self-taught, bootcamper, etc) and are wondering what value academia provides in tech. You can chime in there on the value of your degree.
    3. Side projects - College is one of the best times to build side projects, and you can add lots of value by working on them with other members of the community. I talk about this more here: "How to make the most of my time in school?"

    There's also a lot of community members who are also in school or fresh out of it - I'm sure you can have great conversations there.

    On top of all this, there's so much value in being a friendly face who is genuinely trying to help, which anybody can do. I have a lot of advice on how to project that energy in my Effective Communication series: Alex's Guide To Effective Communication

  • 3
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    Senior Software Engineer [L5] at Google
    a year ago

    I want to network with more senior engineers, especially those in the Taro community and within the companies I intern at, but I am scared to approach them.

    Don't be! We don't bite 😬

    In terms of what I find interesting in mentees, in no particular order:

    • Share your goals / dreams and what you are doing about it - I want to know that my help is going to legitimately help you, so knowing what you want to do is very helpful!
    • Sharing your struggles and insecurities and being open to overcoming them - I want to help where you are feeling the worst about!
    • Ask good questions about the careers/life of others and being a good listener!

    Put it this way, one of the best way for mentees to provide value to mentors is give them the feeling that they were useful. So actually being able to use the advice and turning into something useful in your life will incentivize people to help you.

    Another way to inject yourself into a community like Taro is by helping organize things. Maybe you want to participate in "water cooler topics"? Go to #random in Taro slack and start a thread, every Friday! Maybe you live in an area with lots of other Taro people. Organize an in-person meet up! Maybe there's a cool hackathon going on at your college. See if folks are interested in coming and organize the logistics of it.