I’m sure I’m not the only student that panics, just a little, when the word “networking” comes up in a conversation. Questions like “What should I say?”, “Who should I talk to?” and “What do I bring to the table?” may cross your mind. Others may picture pushy salesmen types fervently handing out business cards. I must confess that these scenarios have crossed my mind and can attest from personal experience that networking is a challenge when one is a natural introvert.
However, networking is an essential part of business and as an MBA student I knew I needed to conquer my fears and embrace this challenge to succeed in my program. At Beedie we are fortunate to have many networking opportunities and to have the SFU Career Management Center (CMC) available for guidance and advice. Through the CMC I learnt that networking is a skill that can be practiced, and I took their recommendations to heart when facing new social situations.
Armed with this knowledge and a healthy dose of fear, I took a deep breath and dove right in- by registering myself in as many functions as I could, both on and off campus. My reasoning was, “I need practice and the only way to practice by meeting new people”. At Beedie, I attended the CKNW CEO Series on Tuesday mornings (where Beedie School is the location sponsor) and the various presentations and career panels that were offered by the CMC. Off-campus I attended networking sessions that concerned topics of interest to me, such as an event affiliated with Genome BC and a Hootsuite open house reception.
Make no mistake, the first ten minutes were the most difficult- especially since I decided to embark on this venture alone. I was uncomfortable, had self doubt, and generally felt out of my comfort zone and I really would rather be anywhere else. But to my surprise, after the initial stage of awkwardness, other people started coming up and talking to me- and they were friendly! They wanted to know how I heard about the event, what my interests were, etc. Through these networking sessions I met so many interesting people with such various backgrounds that I often left a conversation feeling inspired. Slowly I began wanting to meet more people, to find out what they did and why they were there.
Through these experiences, I realized that networking is not only about selling a product, or selling my skills and expertise. Networking is about forming a real connection with people. This may lead to new opportunities for employment in the future, but it could also lead to new friendships and mentors.
While the initial butterflies have not completely gone away, I find myself more willing to push myself out of my comfort zone to converse with others. It is in this area of uncertainty that I have grown and gained the most experience. After all, shouldn’t the journey of earning an MBA involve challenging ourselves to reach new levels of personal and professional accomplishment?
Wing Ka is a full-time SFU Beedie MBA Student with an undergraduate degree in Cell Biology and Genetics. She is a runner, a traveler, a news junkie, and a foodie- but from recent experiences her true passion is connecting with people. Wing Ka is the VP of Communications for the Graduate Business Student Association. Connect with Wing Ka on LinkedIn, @_WingKa on Twitter or via email- firstname.lastname@example.org