A few key themes emerge when students discuss why they might be worried about networking. These worries generally apply more to formal networking than informal networks.
It’s likely that a productive uni experience is as much about making connections as the study itself! You come to uni to become more knowledgeable and to develop industry skills, but also to make new friends - and that’s your informal networking.
Making professional, industry connections or developing those more ‘formal’ networks is another story entirely! Formal networking and industry events – this is where people get worried.
Networking concerns appear to be concentrated around 3 key themes:
What if I say/post the wrong thing?
What if I ask the wrong question?
What if I can’t answer a question and feel stupid?
Being really out of my comfort zone
What if I’m not an extrovert?
What if it seems like I don’t know why I’m there?
What if I feel like I’m rejected?
Breaking the cliques
What if I have no idea how to start a conversation or approach people?
What if I can’t break into a conversation?
What if I’m abandoned at an event?
These are all valid points. None of us what to feel ignored, abandoned or uncomfortable at a formal industry event. But remember, other people didn’t start out being comfortable with formal networking either! If they look more relaxed in the room – it may be that they’re just more seasoned at attending things.
Here are some quick tips to take on board:
- Yes, you might experience rejection from the clique but don’t take it personally. Move on and look for someone else to talk. Head for any snacks on offer – it’s a good spot to start a conversation.
- Have a clear idea of what you want to get out of attending an event. Why is it valuable for you to be there?
- Keep up with trends or current news relating to your field or take notes at a seminar. That way you will be more knowledgeable and definitely not stupid!
- Ask someone from your informal network to go with you, maybe a friend or a classmate
- Believe in yourself – if you are at the event, it means you are part of good company.