By Jennifer Allen-Ayres, CES Career Advisor
Networking. Above all other career-related words, this one seems the most anxiety inducing for students. Never fear! We are happy to demystify the process of networking and offer you a great opportunity for hobnobbing with a warm, receptive audience. First, let’s reframe how you view networking…
How an Encounter on the Trail Provided a New Perspective
Recently I was trekking up a mountain trail with fellow CES staff member, Elizabeth Wormsbecker, when we encountered two hikers along a rocky fork in the path. We exchanged smiles and friendly hellos before launching into a quick chat about what they could expect to encounter ahead.
“Does this trail take us up to Grand Ridge?” they asked.
“Absolutely,” Elizabeth replied. “It’s about another three miles.”
“Which trail would you recommend on the Badger Valley loop?” a young dark-haired hiker eagerly inquired.
“Well, this particular trail is shorter with several steep switchbacks, but it has sweeping views from the peaks of the Olympic mountains. If you take Grand Valley, it’s a longer hike but spreads out the elevation. It also runs alongside and across creeks, through a forested area, and up to Obstruction Point. Just depends on what you’re looking for.”
The conversation continued until we said our goodbyes and parted ways. Along the hike that day we must have had a dozen conversations with fellow hikers—some seasoned with years of experience, others new to the trail, all interested in conversing about gear, weather, challenges, and interesting scenic points.
At the end of the hike Elizabeth turned to me and said, “You know…
“…passing strangers on a mountain trail is really just like networking. We’re mostly strangers, but we all share common goals and interests. Pausing to share advice, ask questions, or chat about what challenges lie ahead is such a pleasant part of the experience. I love talking to people about their favorite gear or scenic points, and sharing my own as well.”
I’d never thought about networking in such friendly terms before! The next time you reach out for a nervous handshake, think of the person across from you as a friendly hiker traveling along a similar career trail. What might you learn from her? What might be some shared interests? Ask about what got her to this point in her career, what she would recommend to someone just starting out. You might be amazed at how easily the conversation evolves.
A Few DOs and DON’Ts for Networking Events, (Like ASK Night):
- DO be prepared to introduce yourself. The elevator pitch is helpful in so many situations. Shake hands. Make eye contact. Share your name and a couple of relevant points about yourself, perhaps what your degree is and what career field you hope to enter.
- DO prepare a few questions before the event. Instead of asking what the person does for a living, ask him what he’s excited about in his career, what his first job was out of college, or what advice he might give to someone considering his career field. If possible, do a little research beforehand so you are familiar with the individuals you will be meeting and the employers they work for.
- DON’T dismiss an opportunity to connect. Even if an individual is working at an organization you’ve never heard of, or isn’t in your desired career field, there’s always value to be gained.
- DO connect after the event. If you meet someone and would like to stay connected, reach out to him/her through Puget Sound’s Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) Network or LinkedIn. You can also send a brief email to follow up, but keep it professional and never ask for a job.
- DO visit the CES website for suggestions about how to start building your network and additional ways to connect with Puget Sound alums.
Put your new-found perspective and networking skills to work at ASK Night!
Jennifer Allen-Ayres, CES Career Advisor: “When I was a kid, I dreamed of being an Olympic gymnast… then a writer… then an architect… then a microbiologist… then an astronaut. I even went to Space Camp as a teenager. There have always been so many exciting possibilities—perhaps this is partly why I love being a career advisor!”
© 2014 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound
Photo credit: Jennifer Allen-Ayres