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Networking 101: Teaching Students to Communicate With Confidence

Networking is a tool professionals use every day — and it's never too early to start building connections. High school has the potential to offer up plenty of opportunities to network: internships, job shadowing, college opportunities, mentorships. But are students aware or taking advantage of these opportunities?

Communication + Confidence

Networking requires two things: communication skills and confidence. Both are qualities that the average teen struggles with. Teens are mastering the art of indirect communication through outlets like social media and texting, but a study from the Royal Society for Public Health shows that use of social platforms like Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram lead to increased feelings of depression and anxiety.

Without opportunities to experience and practice face-to-face social skills, teens may face difficulties in developing meaningful connections and building strong interpersonal skills. While indirect communication through social media and texting is convenient and is an essential function of our tech-driven world, it often lacks the depth and nuance of in-person interactions. As a result, teenagers may find it challenging — and even anxiety-inducing — to navigate real-life networking situations that require effective verbal and nonverbal communication.

Make a Change in the Classroom

A way to ease the challenges of social anxiety is to introduce students to networking activities in the classroom. Setting students up for success early so they know how to communicate ideas anywhere, at any moment, will open new doors.

We spoke with Daniella De Grande, VP of Technology Services Digital Enablement at Thomson Reuters, about the importance of networking:

“The keys to success in life are asking questions and networking — building relationships that will make you successful. Whatever, wherever life takes you, you will always encounter people. So build those relationships, be true to yourself, and keep networking.”

Elevator Pitch Activity

One of many activities that can be used in the classroom to improve communication, confidence, and build relationships is having students craft an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a quick introduction and summary of who they are and what they do.

In the classroom setting, have your students write about a recent project or an idea they want to pitch. They should include details like who they are, what they do, the project they want to speak on, why it’s important, their goal with the project, and include a thank you. (Check out our full Elevator Pitch lesson activity in The Life Builder Journal.)

Once students have been given time to think about exactly what they want to say, have them partner up and practice. Encourage them that there is no right or wrong, and there is nothing to be embarrassed about — it’s practice, afterall. Mix and match partners and ask students how they felt afterwards. Was it as awkward as they expected? Or did it get easier as they practiced? What did they learn from this experience?

Afterward, have students’ watch videos from Daniella De Grande. She is a strong believer in networking. She tells her story of networking and how it has led her to her position today as a technology leader at Thomson Reuters. Watch Daniella’s videos here and view her profile here.

The smallest shift in a students’ mindset can be the trigger to change their future. Integrating communication and confidence exercises into the classroom will lead to well-rounded students who can build a meaningful life for themselves.

Find more exercises, like the elevator pitch activity, in The Life Builder Journal.

Purchase The Life Builder Journal for your summer school students on Amazon or on our website.

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