The Problem Of ‘Upward Networking’ At University

Going to university is often spoken about as being something more than heading to a place to study for a degree. Of course, getting a degree is the main reason why people go, since the tuition fees would be a complete waste of money otherwise, but there are other factors that are often mentioned as a positive of the university lifestyle.

Learning to be self-sufficient is a large part of this, as students head away from their family homes for the first time and venture out into the world to cope (almost) on their own. While there are plenty of support systems in place to ease this transition (not least at the universities themselves), there is no doubting that this is a big step for many young people.

For some, this will be the first time that they have ever really had to budget for themselves and make sure they have enough food in the cupboard. Others will simply relish the new-found freedom of living away from their parents, but some also see university as a great networking opportunity!

This definitely depends on which university you go to, but chances are, if you get into a top university, you may well be rubbing shoulders with a pretty influential peer group. Or, to perhaps put it more realistically – peers with influential parents! These students may, for example, have parents with well-placed connections that can help them find a job later. While some degrees lead right into employment, other students may find that they struggle to find a relevant job, so any little help from your friends can be very useful.

Plenty of people make friendships for life while at university, so perhaps you could do the same with one of these well-placed fellow students? Maybe you could build a network of friends from influential and wealthy backgrounds and then become one of them yourself? They say we become most like the people we spend time with, so mixing with the elite is surely a good idea, right?

In theory this ‘upward networking’ may seem like a great idea but, unfortunately, many students find that the reality does not match up.

This is because, at university, networking often means socialising – and socialising takes money!

Of course, you can speak with your fellow students during, just before, and after class, but most students tend to find it is the group they socialise with who become their firm friends during college and after they leave. These are the networks that are built up during university life but, to put it quite simply, if you can’t afford to go out to the same places as your elite peers, how can you possibly become part of their group?

If you are struggling to pay your way, you won’t be able to run with those who are backed by wealth, and therefore your chances of making a much-feted ‘connection’ while at university are lessened. That is not to say that an upward network is impossible to achieve, but rather that it is not always as straightforward as you, or your parents, may think!

Just because you are at the same institution, it does not always mean you will meet, or even get on with certain people. Seeing university as a networking opportunity is not a good idea – especially given the cost!

When it comes to networking, you’d be better off looking for a job, meeting people in your chosen career, and working your way up, than to take a gamble on a potential university connection!

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