Networking Like a Natural
This past weekend, I had an enlightening conversation with a couple who discussed the difference between forced networking and sincere networking. For a recent grad, who has been told multiple times how vital it is to expand my professional network, coming to the realization that there is a difference between good and bad networking has changed my approach to the subject completely.
I should have come to this realization two years ago as I sat in a brightly lit office interviewing for an internship at my university’s med school magazine. The interview got off to a shaky start, due to a mix of my nerves and inexperience in the art of getting grilled. But once we started talking about my interests and the clips in my portfolio, we suddenly stopped discussing the job and started in on an hour-long conversation about our mutual love for biographical and historical novels. If anyone had asked what I did to prepare for such a great interview, I would not have said “refreshing my knowledge of the French Revolution or how historically inaccurate, but enormously entertaining the movie Gladiator is.” Needless to say, you never know where the conversation will go.
After I walked out of that interview, I felt a sense of relief—not because I survived a potentially nerve-wracking experience, but because of the ease in which I connected with the interviewer. I wouldn’t call myself an extrovert but I was genuinely surprised at how natural and effortless the conversation felt.
Long story short, I respectfully turned down the position, but the connection I made that day was lasting. Not long after our meeting, the interviewer heard of another internship opportunity and reached out to me to suggest I apply. (He described it as one that would better suit my interests.) Although not initially anticipated, I had clearly made a great networking connection. After I landed the job he recommended, I sent him a thank you note and suggested a few books I thought would interest him. Reciprocation, after all, is the key to a great networking relationship.
As I was talking with the couple who has been networking since long before my job search began, they told me one thing is certain: Finding a common thread with anyone you’re attempting to network with will be much more effective than working a room without really getting to know one thing about a single person.
So the next time you find yourself networking, don’t be afraid to engage in non career-related topics. Making the extra effort to get to know someone on a more personal level will more likely help you on your path to finding the right job.