Hi everyone, I've been lurking for a while but I'm technically new, so I apologize if I'm breaking any etiquette (and please let me know if I am). I'm a current sophomore at Princeton looking to go into management consulting, but I'm completely lost when it comes to actually making that happen beyond simply filling out applications– and as I've heard time and time again, this alone is not enough to get a position, especially at a top firm. Specifically, I have no idea how networking actually works. Friends and WSO posters always say "network," and I understand the textbook definition, but I'm utterly confused on how to put it into practice. What, in practical terms, is "networking?" I understand it's not just meeting people, it's establishing a relationship– but how would I go about doing that? Where do I find these people to network with in the first place? I'm not looking for a cut-and-dry guru method, just some realistic advice.
For context, I have no family network (I come from a lower class background and professional connections are literally nonexistent), so I can't simply ask around to see what opportunities there are; I'm pretty much starting from scratch. I am not a URM. I also don't know any friends with current consulting positions. I don't have any work/internship experience (and to be honest I don't know what this even means for top consulting firms, or what type of experience they're looking for), though I have leadership roles in various goal-oriented/project-based groups on campus, including one related to entrepreneurship. I have what I think is a solid GPA– 3.78, with an upward trend and high likelihood of increasing to 3.85/3.9 by the time I apply to jobs; this puts me in the top quintile of my class currently. I have a 1520/1600 SAT, though it's split 800 Verbal, 720 Math (I heard MBB only accepts applicants with 750+ on the math section).
Given that I come from a target and given my stats, could anyone offer me advice (in practical, non-vague terms) on how to start networking/who to look for/how to contact them? Thanks in advance!