Networking (Ooof!), even for the extrovert – this word can cause some angst. Why do we need to do it and how do we survive or, dare I say, even enjoy it? As you start articulating professional goals, it’s important to identify strengths and weaknesses early when it comes to networking. I’m the kind of person who is great at small talk over coffee or at an event, but cringes in a social media space. For that matter, when and where is it even appropriate to network? And how can you embrace both in person and virtual engagement while still staying authentic to yourself? Let’s dive in and see how the temperature feels and learn together!
Why do we have to do this horribly awkward thing called networking? I thought I’d throw a soft ball first. Answer: Because it’s an effective tool to learn more about the potential field you’d like to work in and how to get that great job you’re dreaming about. It helps me to also think of the reciprocity of networking, the give and take. Perhaps now, you’re the sponge soaking up everything you can from peers, familial resources, professors, the career center on campus and more senior colleagues. But soon, you’ll also be offering insights from your own professional experiences and introducing people to foster mutually productive connections in the workplace.
Strengths and Weaknesses – It can be helpful and strategic to consider your natural strengths and unfortunately, yes, the weaknesses, too. Think of the natural strengths as your superpowers, but with every strength, there is usually a flip side, like kryptonite. I have found that strengths assessments, offered by Human Resources departments at work or Career Centers at school, can be very enlightening. With AIFS Abroad, we include the Clifton Strengths Assessment as part of every program. That’s where I learned that one of my superpowers is Positivity which can be powerful as a team player in the workplace; but it can also be overwhelming to certain people in group settings. Understanding your strengths could be a solid first step to determine what makes sense for you when it comes to networking and the kinds of work skills you naturally excel at and can offer an employer.
Once you’ve gained some insight to your strengths, this might lead you to consider how, when and where you’d like to network. Regarding when and where, the short answer is it’s best to cast a deep and wide net; there will always be opportunities, whether strategic or spontaneous, to connect with other people. Saying that, work-life balance is important and sometimes it’s hard to not let the professional and personal spaces blur. I would recommend to just be yourself and view networking as a way to enhance chances of employment rather than the way to outright ask someone for a job. For me, this has been key to enjoying the process. Indeed has good information about specific professional spaces for networking and Monster highlightspersonal spaces for networking to consider.
Regarding how to network, if you can TikTok with the best of them or are energized by your following on Instagram, social media might be great for you. If do well in social settings in person, consider joining a club or organization listed in the links above. If you’re not comfortable with social media, consider asking help from peers or instructional videos on YouTube. If you’re more of an introvert in social settings, consider joining a club or organization together with a more outgoing friend. You both can learn from each other. Introverts are much better listeners which is a critical skill in any workplace.
I hope this has taken some of the mystery, or even sting, out of networking. It’s a necessary and effective skill to help you get the job you want and, as a bonus, can be a great way to make new friends in the future. Go get ‘em!
Photos are during orientation meet and greets for interns in Barcelona, Dublin, Milan, and Florence, summer 2022.