With career fair season underway, I am finding my student appointments filled with conversations about how to work the room, meet companies and make an impression. Only it isn’t the students initiating these conversations. Nope – more often than not it is me trying to convince students to do it!
If asked, I will bet the vast majority of college students will agree that networking is a key component to the career search process. So if we know that it works, then it begs the question:
Why do we dread networking?
I have a few theories and some things to consider:
It takes time.
Time is a valued commodity and with networking you can never know the end result of your investment. You don’t even know exactly what you are going to get out of the first conversation. And yes, there are times when it will lead you to a dead end. This possibility, however remote, makes it that much tougher to put the time aside.
On the flipside, have you ever attended an event that you were dreading only to have a fantastic time? Same rule applies.
It’s like a first date – awkward!
You have to be on your best behavior, dress up and put on a happy face. There are pretenses and assumptions and possible rejection. It is exhausting. You have to kiss a few frogs before you find Prince Charming.
No one wants bad news.
Oh, AND rejection stinks. It is miserable to think that you will hear something negative about your candidacy. What if they tell you that you aren’t qualified? Or that you went to the wrong school for this career? Or that you missed the recruiting process?
But really, what is the better alternative? Banging your head against the same brick wall, or being able to move on and identify a better match for your skills and interests? Real feedback, whether good or bad, offers you a unique chance to take action and re-energize your search process.
“I don’t want to be annoying.”
For those really nice people out there, this can be a huge obstacle. You have great respect for others and for their time and you just feel bad asking someone to give their time to you. What if you are the fifth student to reach out to them, or what if they are having a really bad day?
In reality, most people really like helping others. As people age, there is a natural inclination to want to share wisdom and passion with others.
Trust the process folks. No one said it was easy, but it doesn’t have to be a chore either. Let your natural curiosity guide the conversations and open yourself up. Be vulnerable. In the end networking can uncover for you opportunities and paths that you never would have thought up yourself. Ask anyone – careers are often built on a series of random interactions.
See you on the flipside!
Megan is the Director of the Undergraduate Center for Career Development at Babson College. As an alumna of the graduate school, Megan believes strongly in the spirit of entrepreneurship and what it can bring to the corporate world. It is her goal to bring best in class career development to college students and show them how they can combine their unique skills and personal interests to find their fit beyond the college campus. Megan has worked at Babson for 11 years providing direction to external relations strategies, career advising and thought leadership in the area of career services. Prior to joining the CCD team at Babson College, Megan managed global undergraduate recruiting for a Wall Street investment banking analyst program. Megan earned her B.A. in English from Fordham University and her M.B.A. from Babson College.