Often, networking evokes visuals of business professionals with high qualifications or those actively searching for jobs, funding, and the like. But that's not all there is to networking, and high school students are very much a part of the picture.
The "Why" of It
Amidst ensuring you get the grades you are looking for, searching for scholarships you may need, developing extra-curricular profiles, and applying to universities, networking sounds...stressful.
But it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, networking can actually make your journey easier. You may be able to find a scholarship that seems exactly like something you're interested in but hadn't heard of earlier. You can find like-minded people to work on common projects. Or you might be able to interact with those at the university you aspire to go to or those following the career pathway you're looking to undertake, being able to avoid the mistakes they regret.
...And the "How"
- If you just don't know where to begin, LinkedIn can be a great tool for you. You can start reaching out to alumni from your current high school, and other people with similar interests and goals. Send personalised connection requests, and a simple message might as well turn into a long-term professional relationship.
- If there are societies and clubs at your school or any community events around that you would love to join, do it, even if it means going without your friends. You can be sure that you share at least one interest with everyone in that area, and use that to your advantage.
- "Fake it till you make it" may not actually work here. Or at least, a meaningful connection would definitely not. Don't pretend to be interested in something you aren't simply for the sake of networking; it will only come to hurt you later. Instead, try to acknowledge what you don't know while remaining curious and open.
Networking can take you a longer way than you anticipate initially. You may find a research project to work on with someone as dedicated as you or meet the co-founder of your future startup. But it won't be a linear process. You may not always get favourable responses or might not be able to form the kind of relationships you're going for. That's alright, but instead of getting disappointed, try looking at the larger picture, focusing more on the process than the outcomes. Sure, a couple of nos hurt, but all it takes is one yes to make a difference.