A lot of students are afraid of this word “Networking”.
Sitting in Orientation for the First Years of my program (Advertising and Marketing Communications/Management) I really thought about what a difference makes in one year. Just a short time ago, I was sitting where they were sitting, listening to people that I didn’t know, talk about things that I didn’t understand.
There were lots of thoughts and concepts that stuck in m head throughout my Orientation, but there was one that always freaked me out – “Networking”.
Turns out, for my whole life, I was just misunderstanding the meaning of it.
Networking, to me, was that gross small talk thing that you did at business dinners with the guys in suits before awkwardly exchanging business cards. Networking was talking to your dad’s boss at the company Christmas party, and being as polite and charming as possible.
I’m willing to bet that this is how most people see networking. In fact, until I was told that I had strong networking skills, that’s what I thought.
Guys – we were wrong.
Networking isn’t small talk. It isn’t about getting the business cards and waiting for a favour to come up. It’s not about acting mature or working up your politeness. Networking is about the relationship.
Say, for example, you have an awesome job. You friend has told you that they’re interested in that type of job, and you’ve heard that the company is going to be hiring. If your friend asks you to put in a good word for him.
Comparatively, someone you met at a dinner party once calls you up and asks you to put in a good word for him at your company where he’s applied.
What would you be more comfortable doing? Now let’s flip the situation. Would you trust a friend to put in a good word for you over a stranger?
Of course, I am not saying that “Networking” means “be friends with everyone ever” – that would be insane. What I am saying, however, is that not enough people “Network” by building the relationships – they’re just working to expand their Facebook friend list.
Networking is not scary. Networking is not difficult or awkward or meant to be for favours. Networking is what we do every day, when we talk to our friends, coworkers, and the people around us. It does not need to centre around profession and studies, but can range anywhere from home to work life, politics and sports to what TV show you’ve been binge watching on Netflix.
I can say for certain that the thought of “Networking Events” once terrified, but with time, exposure and proper understanding, I find it easy.
To any of the AMC first years out there who have actually bothered to read this entire post – don’t stress over growing networks and impressing people in suits. Just have a conversation with someone nearby. Go out for coffee with classmates, sit with the teachers at lunch, introduce yourself to someone at a party – you’re networking all of the time, it just never sounded so important before.
Also wearing a suit to any business event will never be considered wrong.
Thanks to Time Magazine’s article, “What College Students Need to Know About Networking” for inspiring me, and to Matthew Condlln for passing on his business-related charisma.