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When I first entered high school as a freshman, I remember hearing this one word and feeling my anxious little introverted heart just squeeze right up. The word: networking. I was, and quite honestly still am, an awkward girl who spent most of my time reading books and analysing movies and just generally avoiding human interaction, so hearing a word like networking, which practically radiates “extrovert energy” gave me quite a few worries. Nonetheless, networking is an important and wonderful tool used by practically every student. It’s our biggest strength.


To start this off, let’s talk about what exactly networking is. The literal definition of the term is “the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts” which is basically just a fancy way of saying socialising in order to gain connections and contacts for the future. This was the part that always frightened me most. I had to talk to people and socialize and exchange contact information?! My little anti-social gremlin self could never. Believe me when I say, I was extremely surprised to find that it wasn’t actually that bad. Most of the time your connections will already have your contact information, which, by default, usually means you have theirs. This is especially true if you sign up to do volunteer or apply to jobs through different online forums, such as the volunteer listings on the Barrie Public Library’s website. When I first started signing up for volunteering, I remember writing my email and phone number about a thousand times, all so that the recruiters would be able to reach out easily. Of course, if you don’t have their contact information, due to whatever reasons, simply asking never hurts.


So yeah, exchanging information in order to gain contacts isn’t actually that hard. Superiors love to help out their volunteers and are always super nice about the process. However, you want to make sure you’re asking for the right contacts. When it comes to the “who”, you can pretty much have anyone as part of your networking spiderweb, including friends and family. Just make sure that when applying for positions, you use the connections that will highlight the key parts of the position. You wouldn’t ask your art teacher to be a reference for your application as a junior soccer coach, especially since they can’t really testify to your potential regarding the job. The better connections for this specific example would be supervisors to children’s programs, athletic programs, or even your gym teacher. However, if you wanted to apply to work in an art gallery, your art teacher would be perfect for that. It’s all about knowing which connections to use for each situation.


In a way, networking is like a hidden superpower that you can never really turn off. When you work and meet new people, even at a place like Tim Hortons, you expand your network of connections. Even just being a responsible student and a good employee will help you gain priceless connections. The best part is that these connections can be used for a variety of things. Applying to university or college? You’ll most likely need references. Applying to a job or for a promotion? Those connections of yours will definitely come in handy.


As I said before, in a way, you will always be networking, but there are better ways to do it. Ways that are more organized and less chaotic. For example, when it comes to networking, I like to keep a booklet of all the important contact information I’ll ever need. Colleagues, cadet officers, teachers, and supervisors. You also want to expand your network from time to time. Apply to more volunteer positions, ask for your colleagues’ connections, use online resources and even ask others for suggestions on how to expand. Quite honestly, experience is the best type of wisdom, so asking those who have experience with networking will greatly benefit you in the future, both long-term and short-term.


Finally, there are a lot of reasons why a student, as well literally anybody over the age of 18, should network. It helps improve your self-confidence and develop long-lasting relationships with others, but most of all, it makes you noticeable which opens new doors filled with multiple opportunities. It’s like having a cheat code for Mario Kart or Mortal Kombat. Granted it’s not going to guarantee your success, but it is going to be a tool in helping you to get to success.


Networking is only one of the many strengths you’ll learn throughout your high school years, but in my opinion, it’s the most valuable of them all. In addition, remember that it’s never too early to start gathering your connections. Collect and hoard them like a cat would do with mice, or a dog with bones. After all, one day they’ll come in handy.


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