Navigating Networking in College: 5 Tips To Go From Interactions to Genuine Connections.

If the word “networking” makes you cringe and conjures images of forced handshakes, awkward elevator pitches, and a whole lot of superficial small talk, don’t worry – you’re not alone. But guess what? Networking doesn’t have to be all that intimidating. In fact, it can be pretty awesome if you shift your perspective and focus on building real connections with people rather than just exchanging business cards. With these tips, networking can be a very meaningful and fulfilling experience!

1. It’s All About Connections, Not Transactions: Imagine networking as an opportunity to meet incredible individuals who share your interests, passions, and ambitions. Instead of treating conversations like a transaction where you aim to get something out of the other person, approach them with genuine curiosity and interest. Ask about their experiences, learn from their insights, and share your own thoughts. Remember, every person you meet has a unique story to tell – and who knows, that person you strike up a conversation with might become a lifelong friend, mentor, or collaborator.

2. Change Your Perspective: Shift your mindset from “What can I gain from this person?” to “What can we achieve together?”

Networking is all about building a community that supports each other’s growth. When you approach it from a collaborative angle, the pressure to impress or “sell yourself” diminishes. Instead of striving to make an impression, aim to make a connection that is based on shared interests, experiences, or aspirations.

3. Embrace the Uncomfortable: Let’s address the elephant in the room – feeling like you’re not qualified enough or dealing with imposter syndrome. Trust me, we’ve all been there! But remember, growth happens outside your comfort zone. Opportunities rarely come knocking on your door; you have to chase after them. Don’t let self-doubt hold you back. Whether it’s applying for a competitive internship or reaching out to a professional you admire, take the leap. More often than not, you’ll surprise yourself with what you’re capable of achieving.

4. Authenticity Trumps Perfection: Authenticity is the key to meaningful connections. Don’t feel like you have to put on a professional façade or pretend to know everything. It’s okay to show vulnerability and admit when you’re uncertain about something. People appreciate genuine conversations far more than rehearsed monologues. Embrace your uniqueness – your quirks, your interests, and your experiences – because they’re what make you stand out in a sea of sameness.

5. The Power of Listening: Networking isn’t just about talking – it’s about listening too. When you actively listen to others, you gain insights that can help you grow personally and professionally. Engage in conversations, ask open-ended questions, and truly hear what the other person is saying. This not only shows respect but also helps you build a foundation for deeper, more meaningful connections.

In a nutshell, networking is not some mystical, daunting ritual reserved for the ultra-confident. It’s about forging connections that enrich your journey through college and beyond. So, ditch the notion of networking as a transaction and embrace it as an opportunity to learn, grow, and collaborate. Embrace discomfort, be genuine, and never underestimate your potential. Remember, the most successful connections are often built on authenticity, shared experiences, and the willingness to step outside your comfort zone. So, go out there, strike up conversations, attend events, and connect with people who inspire you. Your next mentor, partner, or friend might just be one conversation away!

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Alanis Castro-Pacheco

Alanis Castro Pacheco is a first-gen student at Susquehanna University and double majors in Luxury Brand Management and Graphic Design. On campus, she is a member of Kappa Delta Sorority, serves the community as a Student Ambassador, works for the Dean of the Sigmund Weis School of Business, and creates content for the university's Marketing & Communications department. In Susquehanna's College Tour episode, she had her own section where she touched on networking with alumni and her international internships. She is a firm believer that it's not WHAT you know; it's WHO you know, which is why she is so passionate about forming connections with people and gaining as many experiences as possible. Her biggest achievement, thus far, is being selected to work as the Digital Marketing Intern at Michael Kors during the summer of 2023 in their New York headquarters.