So, networking is something I’ve always struggled with. I’m afraid people will think I’m trying to schmooze. I’m afraid of awkward silences. I’m, overall, a very self-conscious person when it comes to networking. However, after going to workshops and networking events—mainly because of my Career Centre Student Blogger job—networking is starting to get a little easier every time.
This week, I attended Jobs with Words—a career event where students can mingle with professions who have, well, jobs with words. The event featured authors, journalists, publishers, and many other literary-centric professionals. To be honest, it was almost like this career event was created for me, because my ideal career after university involves words. It was a great experience to talk to professionals from different careers to hear about their career pathways, how they ended up discovering what they wanted to do after school, and what their jobs are like.
Each professional had their own table, and students could talk with each professional for about five to ten minutes, either one-on-one or in a group, depending on how busy it was. It would have been easier—and a lot less nerve-wracking—to talk to the professionals with a group. But I decided to wait until the crowds subsided and talked to most of the professionals one-on-one.
It was honestly a spur-of-the-moment decision. To be honest, I hadn’t prepared a long list of questions to ask because I wasn’t expecting to have so much one-on-one opportunities with the professionals. Luckily, after attending so many Career Centre events, informational interview questions are ingrained in my brain, and I managed to ask a lot of questions that I was actually interested in. I’m glad I decided to step out of my comfort zone and speak to the professionals one-on-one, because the event was much more rewarding, and I think I ended up getting the most out of the experience.
It felt more like mini-informational interview rather than networking. I got to ask the professionals specific questions one-on-one about topics that I was interested in learning about, such as questions about the industry and their own personal feelings about their jobs. Since I hadn’t prepared a list of questions prior to the event, I did feel like I was put on the spot, and I had to think on my feet in some cases and come up with insightful questions. Next time I attend a networking event, I’ll definitely prepare a mental list of questions—just in case.
Since I was able to conduct mini-informational interviews, I was able to gain insights about various jobs with words, which will inform my future career decisions. Many professionals said they fell into their current positions, and their careers were the product of years of different jobs and discovery of their interests and passions. I’ve been considering different “jobs with words” lately, so it was reassuring to hear that others had non-linear career pathways. I will try to apply a more opened-minded approach to future career decisions and view my past jobs as learning experiences.
At the beginning of the year, stepping into an event like this and talking to professionals one-on-one would have paralyzed me with fear. But after attending so many career events this year, I’m slowly starting to get desensitized. However, I’m certainly not a master networker. It will take a few more events and a little more practice before I completely get rid of my self-consciousness, or feel entirely comfortable talking to strangers. But networking is, slowly but surely, getting a little easier every time.