By Will Clark '16
Does the thought of this month’s corporate networking night make you feel anxious? You may get the impression from walking through the Harper Center that you are the only one who feels this way, you among hundreds of polished and extraverted classmates who all seem so naturally networky. But the truth is that many Booth students secretly battle with what we might call Networking Aversion Syndrome, especially in their first year. I want to share with you some practical tips from the collected wisdom of Boothies who, as you soon will, learned to stop worrying and love the crop circle.
Set reasonable goals. Nobody gets a job offer at corporate networking night. And although you may certainly try to become best friends with as many recruiters as possible if you feel up to it, it’s also okay to leave with a couple of new contacts and follow up later with emails and phone calls.
Go with a buddy. Crop circles can be awkward to enter and awkward to leave (and awkward to be in!), but you can cut down on the discomfort by going in with a teammate. Find someone who goes to a lot of the same recruiting events as you and make the rounds together at a few companies you’re both interested in. Misery loves company, after all.
Be there first. This trick has a limited shelf life, but if you show up at a networking event before everyone else, there aren’t any crop circles. There’s nothing wrong with being the first person in and making a beeline for a specific company table, and it’s also a way to signal interest and make a good impression on recruiters.
Make networking work for you. Figure out what you’re comfortable with and play to your strengths. Some people like crop circles; some like asking good questions at a corporate conversation; some prefer the more controlled environment of a private phone call. Whatever your preference is, design your networking strategy in a way that makes you comfortable and confident.
It gets easier the more you do it. The best way to overcome your anxiety about networking is to do more networking. You just don’t sweat the tenth or twentieth informational interview as much as the first. Think of it like exposure therapy, but without the snakes.
Remember, networking is a conversation, not a game or a competition. Treat it as a chance to learn about different companies, industries, and functions. You can set yourself up to go into interview season in a position of strength by taking what you’ve learned from your networking and using it to communicate clearly about your preferences for a specific role at a specific company.
Will is a second-year MBA and a noted fringe theorist working at the intersection of networking, crop circles, and extraterrestrial activity.