What is networking, anyway?

Ah, networking. Never before had I heard a word so many times without fully understanding what it was all about. From my first year, networking has been a concept that I’ve been encouraged to do as much as the chance allows. More importantly I've also seen the opportunities that come from expanding your personal web of connections. Even as an upper year, I still find myself wondering what exactly networking is, and what it’s all about. Most of the impressions involve images of suits, slicked back hair and a lot of schmooze, so naturally the very nature of the word has largely had an unpleasant ring for me. If you’re in first year and suddenly worried about all of the faculty events you have to attend, don’t be. Not only are you lucky in how much sand is left in your hourglass, but also Ulead offers tons of workshops and advice on how to get started. Networking is, in simple words, a way of connecting with people, which in the grand scheme of things ultimately aims to open up a larger range of information, events or opportunities. It's kind of like with the amount of Facebook friends you have, the more you have the more you have to creep right? Well with networking, the more people you meet, the more you get to find out about! For me, I've always had concerns like these: 1) I don't want to come across phoney 2) I don't want to barge in when there are two people already in a conversation, but I really want to be a part of it. 3) I'm incredibly awkward. After some poking around for wise words from my Rotman pals, suave humanity honchos and visiting  the Career Centre, I've figured out a few ways to get around some of my anxieties. 1) Legitimate interest > schmoozing. If you're genuinely interested in finding out more about the topic, then chances are, not only will that be clear but your sincerity will certainly not be mistaken for a Louis Litt kind of person. Keep in mind, it's always great to listen as much as you participate in conversations. 2) Introductions are a great way to join a conversation, especially when time allows for a pause. While the person may not want to hear about the date and time you were born, a general description of, for example, what you do and how you came across the person (if you already know them) or the event works well. 3) Confidence - in moderation- and a friendly smile can hide all inner butterflies. Networking is about as nervewracking as an awkard lunch during the first day of frosh, but all seasoned networkers tell me that this is a minor hurdle in the way of what is mostly easy conversation. I'm definitely going to take my advice and try some of these out, what are some of your networking tips or stories? - Vahini

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