When you hear the word “networking,” what horror show do you conjure up? An event filled with eager salesmen handing out business cards and clapping people on the back?
Understandably, students don’t want to be this person—asking strangers for favors or pushing their resume on unsuspecting alumni. But that misses the entire point of networking, which is to gather information and build relationships.
Here are three reasons to let go of your fear of networking:
1. You are not asking for a job or an internship. When you meet with a BC alumnus or alumna for a 30-minute “informational interview” (or “exploratory career conversation,” as we like to call them), you are asking for information, not a job. In fact, you can ask any question except “Can I have a job?”
Most people enjoy talking about themselves and their work. Asking an alum about their job and their career path is a great way to get the conversation rolling—“What do you like best about your job? What brings you joy in your work? What experiences drew you to this field?” You can ask about their daily responsibilities or long-term projects, the entry-level jobs available in the industry or at their organization, the trends in their field, or what sets their organization apart.
Along the way, you may hear about some great opportunities or get advice that sends you down an unexpected but rewarding path. (Visit our website for a more complete list of potential questions you can ask and other networking tips.)
2. People want to help you. Most professionals will freely admit that many people have helped them progress through their career, often in quite generous or extraordinary ways. The high school teacher or college professor who passed their resume along to a colleague, the mentor from their college or professional association who guided them through their first year on the job, or the alum who coached them on their interview skills.
When we help someone else, we feel good about ourselves. Why wouldn’t alumni want to give back to the world and to their college by meeting with you?
3. You have a built-in system for speaking with alumni! Eagle Exchange has a variety of alumni around the world on the platform who have volunteered to speak with you about their careers, their industries, graduate school, identity in the workplace, and other career-related topics. Over 500 of these alumni would welcome you to spend a day shadowing them on the job!
Based on the profile you fill out, Eagle Exchange suggests alumni for you to meet and connect with. You can also search for alums using the Explore the Community function. You can post a question to the Discussion section and join one of the six industry clusters Groups. And you can use the built-in video conferencing tool to hold your long-distance conversations.
Networking. Informational interviews. Exploratory career conversations. Whatever label you choose, it’s not nearly as scary as you might imagine it to be.