One Small Tip for Networking Receptions

While providing event support at the SPA Networking Reception last Tuesday evening in my role as a Career Center Peer Advisor, one student confessed her dislike for networking.

“I just never know what to say to a prospective employer,” the girl said as she swiped her ID at the sign-in computer. “I always feel so awkward at these things.”

I’m sure almost everyone can relate to this. Who is really, truly, genuinely comfortable at approaching a stranger in any setting, let alone a professional one? The extra pressure of networking and all that is associated with it doesn’t help either. We’re told that if we network successfully, we can talk our way to a job; but if we don’t maximize our networking potential, we miss out on the professional opportunities that could have been. How’s that for some extra pressure?

The thing with networking is that you want to be memorable (in a good way, of course) with the short amount of time you are given to connect with an employer. You want to establish a connection that will ensure that not only will the employer remember you, but he or she will want to hire you. But sometimes we get so overwhelmed with all that we want to do in the too-short amount of time we are given in a networking setting that we fall short of our goals and are left thinking of what we could have said, or should have done instead.

Here’s the thing with networking receptions: there are always a lot of employers there. Chances are, you aren’t going to want to be hired by every single one of them. A great way to calm nerves and relax is to “practice” networking with an employer that is not your first choice. That way, you’ll still be practicing your networking skills in a real live setting, but you won’t be beating yourself up if you psych yourself out a little bit here and there. Then, once you’re done with your round of “dry run” networking, you’ll be confident enough to network with your top choice employers because you know what it’ll take to be the best you can be.