It may not seem so at first, but after a couple terms in graduate school “networking” becomes a dirty word. It’s something that takes you away from your assignments and internship applications. After countless BCC events and conversations with alumni, Sauder friendly businesses and school representatives, the whole thing may seem tedious, but it doesn’t have to be.
Networking can be a constantly inspiring experience if you just stop networking. Instead, keep these suggestions in mind. You may find that not only are you collecting leads, but you are making friends and creating a strong business network as well.
Ask About Them
Networking is most interesting to me because I am far more interested in what other people are doing with their time than what I’m doing with my own. You could be at any event in Vancouver with a healthcare professional, a politician, an artist, and of course a handful of engineers. Ask them what they are up to.
What you’ll inevitably find are commonalities that will allow you to build a deeper relationship than just a, “What do you do, now let me tell you about me.” Ask follow up questions to gain a deeper understanding. If you’re completely uninterested, thank them for the chat and move on. The fake going to the washroom move is a classic.
Don’t Force It
If things aren’t going well, laugh about it. It’s better to call out the elephant in the room and say a situation is awkward than trying to salvage something that is not salvageable. Did you accidentally insult them? Thank them for their time and walk away. Are you unbelievably uninterested in what they do? Thank them for their time and walk away. If you’re wasting your time, you’re wasting their time.
The one thing to remember here though is that leads come in all shapes and sizes. Your kindness to someone who is uncomfortable or doesn’t engage well can go a long way. Someone’s brother’s cousin’s wife is busy getting someone a job at the most amazing firm in town, make that person you.
A Favour is Always Better to Give
The strongest connections I have forged are the ones where instead of asking for something, I’m giving something. Being a connector feels good and allows you to pay it forward, even if you never get it in return. Many times you won’t have anything to offer, but when you do make it count. The next time you ask that person to connect you to someone they know, they’ll be more than happy to. They know you create value.
If you are not super slick suit person, don’t worry about it. Be professional. Be kind. Be your best self, but be yourself. If you aren’t into sports, don’t fake it. If math is anathema to you, don’t pretend to know what someone is talking about. Take the opportunity to acknowledge the other person’s expertise and try to shift the conversation to another area that you might have more experience and more to talk about.
Networking can be wildly fun when you look at it as building connections to humans instead of trolling for a job. Continuously building your network will be far more beneficial in the long run than cramming when you need an internship, so get out there. Buy someone coffee. Buy someone a beer. Get to know the community in Vancouver.
By Caty Tedman