Written by Rosa Moreleon, Global Ambassador and Master student. Hult San Francisco Class of 2017.
EVERYONE – and I mean every single person on this planet – has feared at some point the “walking up to a VIP and speaking with him/her to expand your connections.” Even introducing yourself to your classmates and other professors can be a bit scary. On the other hand, there are those that don’t fear it, yet they are hitting dead ends.
Although trending, “Networking” is honestly a vague word. I remember during college, all my professors and advisors would tell me to network, and all I could think of was “Network…um, what? Like how?”
“Networking is simply a fancy way of telling young professionals, like myself, to build relationships that can potentially impact your present and future career.”
REALITY CHECK: Networking is simply a fancy way of telling young professionals, like myself, to build relationships that can potentially impact your present and future career.
KEY THING TO REMEMBER: Like you and me, they are just PEOPLE! Yes, all C-level managers and other professionals, as well as professors with many awards and other students, whether MBA or undergraduates, they are all people. They are different in many ways but they are just as human as you are. So then what is networking? It is talking to regular people, making them a friend or a mentor. Nothing out of this world.
The better question to think about is how to do it right. Here are a couple of tips that will definitely bring those fears and barriers down and show you the way to do it right.
Tip #1: Realize that whoever you’re trying to connect with is just another person.
Remember that you are connecting with a person, not just a work title or a famous award. Be professional and well-mannered, but keep it casual at the same time because what you’re aiming for is just an easy-going conversation. The more you empathize and understand that that person is more than just a name, the easier it is for you to relax and speak freely. Remember how you made friends when you were a kid? You’d just walk up to the other kid and ask to play or ask about his/her toys. Same tactic here – introduce yourself, say hi, and begin a conversation. DON’T LET FEAR KEEP YOU OUT OF THE GAME!
Tip #2: Don’t talk about yourself first.
“Instead of diving into a monologue about yourself, show an interest in them and ask what they are looking for first.”
When you’re in a situation that you must network—like career fairs, internship, networking events, etc.—you feel the pressure that you need to show off your best skill, in a short time, to get their attention and approval. WRONG! Headhunters and professionals dread the drill that most dive into directly: the elevator speeches, trying to show off, or use flattery of some sort.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Use a different approach that will make you stand out. Instead of diving into a monolog about yourself, show an interest in them and ask what they are looking for first. Here you can add a thing or two about yourself to explain why you’re interested. They might even then ask about you, and that’s your cue! Ask about what they do, use a little insight of your own to start off the conversation, and show off that you’ve done your research. Maybe ask them about their position, if they haven’t brought it up, and what is the work culture like. Ask insightful questions about them, and if there is a moment or experience you can relate to, share it.
Tip #3: Speak with confidence, even if you are trembling on the inside.
Nobody likes a know-it-all who flaunts it, but everyone values someone who is secure about oneself and know what he/she is talking about. The truth is you probably won’t know everything about the person you’re connecting with or about the company, yet you still want to make the connection. BE HONEST AND TRANSPARENT. There is a reason you want to connect with them, so say it. Maybe there is something about the profession that you admire or you’d like to know more about a company. The courage, transparency, and confidence from which you come from, to ask and show interest, are extremely valued. I can guarantee they will ask you in return why are you interested and here you can talk about your experiences and aspirations. You don’t need to make stuff up or pretend you know things. All you have to do is ask the right questions, be honest, listen, and talk about you—you’re an expert in you!
“Doing what scares us is sometimes the only way to get things done.”
So forget the fancy and intimidating sense that comes with the concept of “networking.” Break it down to a concept which you feel comfortable with and to what it really is—interacting. If you still feel fear, acknowledge it and do it anyways. Doing what scares us is sometimes the only way to get things done. And with these tips, I’m sure that you’ll get it right
Rosa Moreleon is a Mexican adventure junkie with a thirst to learn about anything and everything, especially when it comes to history and art. She’s currently pursuing the Master of International Business at Hult and holds two Bachelor degrees from UT Austin in International Relations and Economics. She is passionate about market research and hopes to make a difference wherever she goes.