Networking. My stomach used to make backflips at the mere mention of the word. Somehow, I’d come up with a ridiculous excuse to avoid meet and greet events altogether. I used to see networking as a forced, unnatural way to get contacts for when you need help, such as when you’re looking for a job. I quickly learned that networking is more about what you can offer the other individual as a professional and less about what you can gain from meeting them. I had the ill-conceived mindset that networking is for the sole purpose of getting a job. At this point, that’s not meeting people but instead piling up contacts in hopes to utilize them or their connections to land your dream job. I wouldn’t call myself an expert networker, but here are some suggestions that worked for me!
- Meeting people at different networking events and scheduling informational interviews are great ways to obtain insight into a particular graduate school program or career path. You’re not only gaining valuable information but in a sense also constructing your brand by illustrating your authentic interest in building a network! Your goal in an event shouldn’t be to grab everyone’s business card, but more so meaningfully connecting with 2 or 3 people.
- If you’re passionate about a specific area of interest, look into who might be in your targeted field and the work that they’re doing. Even making just one but strong connection makes a lasting impression on the other person and they will most likely want to be a mentor or person of support in your career endeavors.
- Allow yourself to naturally make connections and develop relationships with others. Your goal is is to make meaningful interactions with people you’re genuinely interested in meeting and conversing about their interests and work.
Where Do You Meet People?
Attending networking events is fantastic, but I believe they make up a small part of the act of networking. You meet people at work, on campus, at the park, where you volunteer, on the T, basically, anywhere you’re having interactions with others. You can kick off with the network you’ve already worked so hard to build without knowing it! One of your biggest networks and mine too is most likely Northeastern.
Your professors, the staff, the police officers, and of course, your friends and other students are all part of your huge network. These are people who you can seek help from whether it’s for pressing questions about a particular industry or genuine interest in the work that they do. And also remember, everyone has their own network, so even if they can’t help you directly, they can always refer you to someone who can. If there are trust and relationship built between you and that person, why wouldn’t want to lend you a helping hand and introduce you to someone who can?
Joviane Bellegarde is a Northeastern Alumna hailing from the Class of 2014. She graduated with a BS in Biochemistry and is working at Brigham and Women’s Hospital as a Technical Research Assistant. In her free time, she enjoys reading, catching up on her favorite shows, and expressing her inner geek. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/jovianebellegarde.