Networking Is Still Just As Hard On The Other Side Of The Equation
I wouldn’t describe myself as being “good” at networking.
I’m a decent conversationalist, but it’s definitely a growth area for me.
I went to a number of networking events when I was a student and a few now that I’ve entered the “real world.”
Recently, I had my first experience on the other side of the networking equation: I was invited to a networking event as a mentor/employer.
My first reaction was “this will be great, I’ve finally made it!”
But my next thought was “what am I going to talk about?”
Coming to a networking event as a student or junior level employee, it’s pretty straightforward. You’ve got your questions, your elevator pitch, and an idea of which places you’re trying to get a job or goals for who you want to meet at the event.
But how are you supposed to prepare for a networking event as a mentor? (I won’t go as far as to say employer because I’m not quite on the making-hiring-decisions level yet.) How do you prepare for an event like this?
My answer: you don’t. You wing it.
Which worked pretty well. I networked with a mix of students, some who were interested in my career path and some who weren’t.
More than anything it was interesting to see the networking equation from the other side. Three things stood out to me:
Networking is about building relationships. Even though I couldn’t help as an employer, I was able to share my experience as a recent grad and give what perspective I could for people interested in a similar path.
The employers want to talk to you. If someone is at a networking event, they want to talk to pretty much anyone there. So if you see someone standing by themselves, go talk to them. You never know what kind of connection you could make.
Practice makes improvement. The only way to get better at something is to keep working at it. Networking is the same. If you keep putting yourself out there and making connections, good things will happen.
Networking is scary for everyone, but it gets easier when you understand it’s scary for everyone and approach it from a place of wanting to make genuine connections. At the end of the day, we’re all people looking to connect with other people.