By Lauren Kelly, Editor-in-Chief
I’m sure you’ve all heard from a bunch of people that “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” They’re right. Networking is one of the most important things you can do to get ahead in your career path or to just find a job. There are even events dedicated specifically to meeting and making connections with people in your industry.
However, I always found the concept daunting. I love people, and I feel like I get along with most people well, but cold walking up to a stranger at one of those events and making a connection is a little scary. The whole thing can seem a bit artificial, too, since you’re not often truly making a connection. That doesn’t undermine the idea of networking, though. You just have to do it in a way that works best for you.
This often means that you have to make good impressions with those you know more casually. Every job I’ve had—including this one—I came into because I made a solid impression on a friend. If someone trusts you and trusts your ability to work, they’ll be more willing to stick their neck out for you and help you get a job when you need it, or if they need you. Make sure people know your skill set, and try not to do things like be consistently late or forgetful.
Another big one for when you’re in school is make sure you make connections with your professors, especially those in the department you’re hoping to work in. Go to office hours, ask questions in class, appear super interested. It’s not easy, but by making a positive impression on your professors and building a relationship with them, you might open doors for yourself that you wouldn’t have access to normally.
Lastly—go to networking events sometimes. Just find ones that suit you. A few years back, a few classmates and I attended a monthly meet up for local writers, and they all grab a beer, bond, and tell stories about their troubles with writing. It was really fun, and much more relaxed than more formal events. Still, it can be weird breaking into new groups, so go with a couple friends, classmates, or colleagues, and then you’ll have support and someone to talk to if things are a bit awkward. A good resource for finding these kinds of events is meetup.com, which allows you to find groups of people with similar interests as you.
No matter how you go about it, remember that connections are important. Having an in can net you a job that you never would have known about otherwise, and having a solid reference from within a company will be a huge help. Just do what you’re comfortable with, but put yourself out there as much as you can, and above all—be someone you would want to hire.