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College is a time to learn, grow, and figure out what you want to do once you graduate. Whether you plan on following the career path you dreamed up since you were seven years old or still question what you will be doing, creating connections now can change the trajectory of your life. While networking can open doors and create opportunities for you and your future, it can also be nerve-racking and hard to build relationships when you are struggling to find out what you want to do.
As an introverted person who was an undecided major for a long time, I often felt pressured when it came to building connections. I always felt like I wasn’t doing enough when it came to building connections and didn’t even really know how to. For the longest time, I thought I was the only one in the dark on how to get involved and meet new people, so if you feel that way, know you are not alone. While stepping out of your comfort zone and marketing yourself can be nerve-wracking, it is important to know that everyone can get a little nervous. Since my freshman year, I have followed ways to keep myself from feeling anxious and learned to embrace networking in a way that fits me and my personality. Keep reading for some tips and tricks on how to overcome those anxious feelings you may have surrounding networking and how to build connections in natural, no-pressure ways.
1. Talk it “Dead”
Nerves can sometimes get in the way of your confidence, and the best way to get past them is to sometimes confront those issues head-on. Whenever I am nervous to go to a networking event or do something out of my comfort zone, my best friend encourages me to talk it out, or as she calls it: “talk it dead”.
The idea behind “talk it dead” is to talk to yourself or a friend or family member who’s willing to listen about what is making you nervous. Talking it out and breaking down the situation often helps me to see what is making me nervous from the outside and whether or not the level of pressure and anxiety I feel about it is worth it. Usually, I end up realizing what I am worried about does not hold much weight and can diminish any fear I have.
As I mentioned before, networking and marketing yourself to others can be a challenge, especially if you are not used to being the center of attention. Talking it dead helps you to recognize your potential and understand that you are more than you give yourself credit for. You are capable of great things even when you forget, though if you’re anything like me, that may be often. This article helps to remind me of why talking about my problems out loud to others can be so beneficial!
Don’t have anyone to talk to? While it may be nerve wracking at first, you can meet lots of new friends by getting involved!
2. Join a Club
I feel like this is the most basic and used piece of advice you can get from current and former college students… but it’s good advice! Joining a club can be nerve-wracking, and so can meeting new people.
As a writing major, I always loved the thought of joining a professional writers club to build connections with other people in my field of interest. When it came time to sign up though, I suddenly became afraid I would not be as experienced or have much to bring to the table of polished writers. Eventually, I signed up and I am so glad I did, as I found many people who think and act a lot like me!
One way to get out of your comfort zone and build connections is to join a club you are interested in where you can relate to those in said club. It is so much easier to network with and through people who understand what you are passionate about. Overwhelmed by the amount of clubs your university offers? Check out this guide to college clubs and organizations. If you’re having trouble finding a club for you or unsure where to start, other helpful resources include your university’s student life webpage or help from an advisor!
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3. Schedule A Meeting with An Advisor
Colleges typically have hundreds of different resources students can turn to when looking to network and build connections. One of the many helpful services, if not the best, is advising appointments. Advisors are there to help you with any questions you may have and can provide valuable insight, especially those that specialize in your major.
I was extremely nervous for my first advising appointment in college, as I was struggling with figuring out what I wanted to do and felt like I was falling behind in where I was “supposed” to be. After meeting with my advisor, that all changed. He gave me so many great resources and people who I could speak to regarding my situation.
If you want to get past anxious feelings on building connections and taking further steps into your future, talk to an advisor. They are literally paid to listen and help you with whatever you need and will understand whatever struggles you are facing. Their job is to help you to graduate on time and find the career right for you, so don’t feel stressed to reach out and schedule an appointment!
For more help on how to make these appointments more beneficial for you, check out some additional tips!
4. Visit the Career Center
After your appointment with your advisor, they will most likely refer you to your university’s career center. While an advisor can be helpful in many ways, the career center has even more resources as well as opportunities for you to build up your experience and confidence. Some resources offered at your career center may include:
- Resume and Cover Letter Workshops
- Networking opportunities in the form of job, career, and internship fairs
- Interview Practice
- Volunteer Opportunities
Just like the advisors, the people who work at the career center are experts on helping students reach their full potential. They have so much advice on how to overcome your anxieties and evolve into a more courageous and driven student and worker. Once you visit the career center, you should be able to leave with great advice and possible plans to attend networking events!
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5. Explore Local Events
Colleges are constantly holding internship, job, major and career fairs, which are perfect for networking! While the amount of people around may be overwhelming, just making an appearance at any type of event can help you get a feel for what you like and who you would want to make a connection with. Sometimes it even helps to watch how other students interact with companies, professors, and others, as it allows you to know how you can approach certain people you may be nervous to speak to.
Other ways to use a career fair for research are listed in this article.
While attending events come with great opportunities, the idea of going to them can be really unsettling, especially if you have no idea what you want to do. I encourage you to attend your first few events with just exploration in mind. I have found it is easier and more relaxing when you take the pressure off yourself and explore before you’re ready to commit to whatever you find at an event! As I mentioned before, advisors and different centers at your university can provide networking opportunities. If you are not comfortable going to strangers, speaking with a professor you admire or are encouraged by is another great opportunity!
6. Ask Professors for Advice
I think people often forget the role professors play, besides them teaching the class. Professors typically know your work ethic, what kind of student you are, and what areas you thrive in. If you are confused and don’t know where to start when trying to find a career or figure out what you might want to do, talk to one of your professors.
Professors are another great example of people who are hired, trained, and paid to help you advance in the world, and specifically in the career of your choosing. If you are unsure of what you are truly good at, talk with a close professor or one who you value opinion from, and see if they can help you to use your skills in an efficient and smart way. Most often, they may refer you to other professors or provide you with connections they have within your field of choice. This article outlines simple ways you can begin to network with professors.
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While these are just six listed tips, they have really helped me to overcome the anxiety I had with marketing myself to other people. It can sometimes feel unnatural and awkward when networking, but using your resources and building on your confidence can help you to conquer any anxiety you may have.