Ah, networking. The eons-old way to meet professionals, make connections that can advance your career, and test out the capacity of your sweat-glands.
Networking is an experience that is dreaded by many.
When I joined Arts Co-op, I did not look forward to the mandatory networking events. I worried that I would feel fake walking around a room and talking to different potential employers. I didn’t want to look robotic and feared everyone would see right through me.
More than that, I didn’t know what to say or what kind of questions to ask. I started stressing out about these events weeks in advance and thought about hiding out in the bathroom for most of them.
I didn’t end up hiding out. I’m not going to lie and say I made lots of genuine connections right away, but I pushed myself to talk to different people and I’m glad I did. I found out what I needed to work on and now I feel more prepared to be in that situation the next time it comes up.
Career Days are coming up, so here are some tips that you can try (and that I should have tried the last time around) to have valuable interactions, and avoid sweaty palms and excessive blinking.
Remember that networking just means connecting with other people
Do your best to avoid stilted conversation by asking lots of questions and trying to find common ground to connect over. Humans like to talk about things they mutually enjoy, and these conversations are often the most genuine.
You’ll be more likely to leave an impression on someone who you connected with in a genuine way. You can find some sample questions in this Forbes article, and come up with your own to pull from when you meet someone new.
Practice mindfulness before an event
Stress is inevitable in life, but the side effects of stress can be mitigated through calming techniques like deep breathing.
Keep in mind that what works for one person may not necessarily work for someone else - deep breathing may work for me, but perhaps having a healthy breakfast and going for a run before a stressful experience is what calms someone else’s nerves.
Try different things and find what works for you.
This can help calm your nerves, and being prepared will show people that you value their time. Watch this video on preparing for networking for some tips on how to get ready.
Remember that your professional network isn’t just made up of people you meet at designated networking events. Your co-workers, classmates, TAs, friends, and even family members are all people who can help you connect to opportunities and grow as a professional.
If the prospect of going to a networking event is scary right now, know that you can practice the skills you need in your everyday life - try going to office hours for the first time, or ask your coworker out for coffee to find out more about their professional past. There’s lots you can do to prepare that you may not have thought of.
At a certain point, you can challenge yourself by attending a networking event, and you might even surprise yourself. I encourage you to say yes to the next opportunity that comes up - you never know what might happen, or with whom you might make a connection.
Check out UBC’s largest annual Career Days and Graduate & Professional Schools Fair on October 18 and 19 at the AMS Nest, where you can meet employers and practice your networking skills.
To make the most of your Career Days experience, check out the Learning Lab opportunities on October 16 and 17 for tips and resources on engaging with employers.