Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and viewpoints of current Arts students. Through their posts, you’ll experience the creativity and passion of our students as they present glimpses into student life. The views and opinions expressed within these posts are solely those of the authors.
At the start of the month, the Office of the Student Ombuds headed up organizing the 2016 Student Advisors Conference and I had one of my first important opportunities to speak with a diverse group of student advisors.
As a naturally introverted person, I never liked the thought of networking or conferencing and always assumed it would be something that would be difficult for me. I have never been good at talking about myself, and making small talk does not come naturally for me — in fact, I find it exhausting. However, I am often being reminded by mentors and co-workers of how important networking is for learning about your industry of choice and developing a professional network… and I hate to admit that they have a point.
Throughout the conference, I was able to make some meaningful connections with student services workers from the U of A and other institutions, and I learned a great deal about the struggles and strengths of many people in this field. Overall, I feel that my experience at the conference was a success and, since I know that there must be more people out there like me (I hope some are reading this!), I would like to share what I have learned about how to get the most out of networking opportunities.
I am often being reminded of how important networking is for learning about your industry of choice and developing a professional network… and I hate to admit that they have a point.
See my list below to make your next networking opportunity cause you as little anxiety and dread as possible.
1. Prepare: Before the conference or networking event, have a few topics of conversation ready and be prepared to talk about yourself and things that interest you — preferably in a way that relates to the theme of the conference.
2. Introduce yourself to the social butterfly: In every conference or networking session, there is always at least one person who seems to know everyone. Find this person and introduce yourself to him or her, explaining your work and your plans for the future. Tell them that you are eager to meet more people who could help you with your career plans and, more than likely, this person will be happy to introduce you to some of their many acquaintances.
3. Present: While it can be a bit scary, if you have the chance to give a presentation on your work or ideas, take advantage of this! There is no better way to introduce yourself to a large group of people, attract the attention of the kind of people you should know, and find common ground for conversations.
4. Find a Buddy: Find someone you know well enough to be comfortable with and attend the event with them. Between the two of you, you will always have something to say to keep the conversations moving and interesting.
5. Take advantage of your new-ness to the career world: When you are networking, mentioning that you are a student or a recent graduate will give you a great opportunity to bond with your interlocutor and discuss the transition from student to professional through stories and advice. Hopefully, they will also be willing to help you make worthwhile connections during the event.
To get a foot in the door in the field in which you hope to work, it is important for students to participate in networking opportunities as often as possible, and it’s never too early to start. I hope these tips help you put yourself out there and make some progress towards finding your niche in the working world. It’s really not as scary as you might think.