The most dreaded term of the management school community. Everyone talks about it, all your professors bring it up in class, every event includes a portion of it. But really, what is networking?
What is Networking?
I disliked the idea of networking for the first two years of management school. I thought it was intimidating, ingenuine and simply not worth the social anxiety that came with it.
But what is it? Technically you know the answer. You are told that it is the act of meeting people like friends, professionals, and other adults because that is the best way to get job opportunities when you graduate, or something along those lines. The truth is, networking is so much more than that.
You think networking is more like this:
Realistically, however, it’s more like this:
Opportunities Are Everywhere
Networking is random, constant, and a part of our everyday life. Networking is simply making a connection with someone. Anyone. It is saying “Hi” to the person next to you in class. It is your group mates for your course projects. It is going to see your professor at their office hours. It is that simple. So, what’s the fuss?
I see it as a learning opportunity, whether through networking events, casual encounters or online conversation. I network with people that I want to learn something from: how they got their current job, what their career path was like, how they feel about the student association they are a part of, or what tools they use for getting so much done while being a full-time student. As you can see, there’s a lot to learn from people, and most people are always willing to help, share their experiences, and provide you with the opportunity to learn from them.
Just Be Yourself
The best part is, it doesn’t have to be intimidating or ingenuine. The key is having a genuine interest to connect with a particular person, and to be honest about why you want to connect with them. When you’re genuine, then your conversation with that person is honest, interesting and effortless. You will end your conversation with that person feeling like you just learned something new, made a connection, and better yet, you didn’t even realize you were networking the whole time.
Connections For Your Future
So, how do you network? I network by reaching out to people on LinkedIn who currently have my dream job, or work at a company I hope to work at one day, or are currently pursuing studies I am considering for myself in the future etc. I connect with that particular individual, but ensure that I am sending a note with my request, saying who I am, and why I want to connect with them. They almost always accept my connection, and are happy to meet with me over coffee or a simple call.
Therefore, networking isn’t as intimidating as it seems. Be yourself, go into conversations with people you don’t know by trying to learn something new, and the result is that you have expanded your network. It’s magic!
You never know what those connections will lead to. One day when you need a job, or want to participate in an activity or event, you can reach out to someone you already know from your network, and more often than not, they will be happy to help you reach your goals.
Everyone networks whether they know it or not. The difference, however, is that when people take every chance they can get to learn and connect with new people, they can then manifest opportunities that come their way.