Written by: Julia Haas
As an incoming freshman to the Questrom School of Business, you hear one magical word over and over again: networking. Everyone tells you how important it is to network, to talk to people, and to build connections that will hopefully land you that dream internship or job. I can tell you from personal experience that this can be quite true and that networking is a very powerful tool, but I also know how incredibly hard it can as an introvert to network. It’s difficult to muster up the courage to approach that recruiter at a career fair, start a conversation and– most importantly– to keep it going without ending in an awkward silence.
But don’t worry! With enough practice and some helpful tips, you can become a networking pro in no time. Here are a few important tactics to consider:
- Manage your expectations.
If you’re attending some kind of networking event, you don’t have to put pressure on yourself to meet a lot of people. You can ease your way into networking by just staying for 20-30 minutes and talking to one or two people. Don’t worry that you don’t meet everyone; one quality conversation is much more valuable than 20 short and superficial ones.
- Plan some ice-breakers ahead of time.
Introverts, in particular, have a hard time starting conversations with strangers, but doing a bit of homework before an event can help you come up with great questions to ask. First find out who will be at an event and then research the people you want to talk to by simply googling them or their company or looking at their LinkedIn profile. Then, prepare a few questions as potential icebreakers. These can be quite simple and revolve around popular topics such as the college they attended, where they are from, if they like to travel, what kind of food they like to eat, etc.
- Set a time limit.
Instead of committing to stay for the duration of an event, tell yourself you’ll only hang out for an hour, or some other chunk of time you’re comfortable with. The point is to take the pressure off yourself and just show up. Even by simply showing up, you are taking one step into the right direction. You never know who you might meet and how beneficial that person can be to your future career. However, if you’ve been at the event for some time and you’re not quite connecting with anyone, don’t feel pressured to stay.
- Ask for an introduction.
Find someone, a friend, colleague, classmate, professor, etc., who knows everyone and ask that person to connect you with whomever it is you want to meet. When you ask someone to introduce you, it holds a lot more weight versus going up to someone and introducing yourself. It is also a lot easier and more comfortable to approach a person if you have someone else who can kick off the conversation for you.
- Share personal stories.
Your personal stories are what make you interesting and memorable. Keep it professional, but don’t be afraid to share a story about something that is important to you, like a sport you are passionate about or a travel experience.
6. Practice every day.
The more you network, the easier it gets, but you have to keep doing it. At first, maybe ask a friend to practice with you or start a conversation with your professors. If you have an internship or are currently working, make an effort every day to strike up a brief conversation with a co-worker. Then take it a step further and attend a networking event.
If you make an effort to work on your networking skills and follow these tips, then networking should soon become much easier for you.