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SFU Co-op Student

SFU Big Fair event
The more you practice the better you get at it! Trust me, I’ve changed my questions from talking about the weather, to actually asking about the person.

For me, an invitation to a networking event automatically elicits feelings of anxiety, triggers my sweat glands and generates one glaring thought, “no freakin’ way.” These negative reactions are heightened when the networking event involves industry professionals that I could potentially work for. Not only do you have to worry about the agony of small talk, but also now you have to make sure you make good small talk with people that may be your boss one day. Talk about pressure!

Here is my train of thought:

  • What do we talk about? I’m the worst at small talk. Do we talk about the weather? “Do... you... like... the sun?” Oh, my god.

  • Okay, I can’t small talk to save my life. I should probably research these people and ask questions about them.

  • Ah, Google you are my best friend. Hmm, an Instagram account, is that weird to see their Instagram? Nah that’s not weird.

  • (20 minutes deep into Instagram)

  • WHOA, unlike this speaker’s second cousin’s photo of a past trip to Europe. UNLIKE.

  • I’m hopeless.

So, you can imagine my apprehension when asked to attend the Careers in Communications event for work, a night hosted by the Communication Student Union where communication students get to meet professionals working in the field. Since I was attending for work, I felt like I had a purpose, a motive beyond my own career development. This didn’t mean that I wasn’t nervous about it.

It was during my first roundtable session when I discovered that these professionals were once in our own shoes and had nuggets of wisdom to share. I now recognize that I’ve been approaching networking events all wrong. I’ve been thinking about myself, my insecurities, and what I want out of the event. Instead, networking events should be approached with an open mind and willingness to learn about other people, not just because they have something they can offer you or because they have a fancy job title, but because there are so many interesting people on this Earth and we can all learn from each other’s experiences. Shifting perspectives transforms your interactions from a transactional one, where one party has the goal of receiving something from the other, to an educational one, enabling you to learn things related to your personal life or your career that you didn’t expect.

After speaking to awesome professionals, I ended up feeling more motivated in pursuing a career I’m passionate about and left with more knowledge about the communications industry.

  • Alessandra Bordon, Director of Sales and Marketing at Nuvo magazine, shared that after trying so many different co-op jobs, she learned that what she was actually searching for was not a specific title, but a specific work culture. She’s found her perfect work environment and that’s what keeps her motivated 15 years later.

  • Amanda Mccuaig, Communications Coordinator at the City of Vancouver, shared practical information about executing a successful communication project. For example, a project with many key players is all about the power of persuasion. Not in the sense of telling people what to do and how to do it, but by taking them on a journey with you, step by step.

  • Lastly, I learned from Vivienne Taylor, Trend Fashion Forecaster that all the critical analysis and research skills we develop in communications can actually be directly applied in the workforce. Vivienne has carved herself a niche career as the Principal of Trend Fashion Forecasting and Marketing for designers all over the globe. She attributes her success as a fashion forecaster to all her years in the Communication program at SFU developing those analytical and critical-thinking skills.

I attended the event and the world didn’t come to an end. To my surprise, the night wasn’t even as painful as I had anticipated. Instead of a long night of uncomfortable small talk, I actually walked away with valuable information and a newfound respect for networking. What made me see things in a new light? Well, I realized that these industry professionals are real people too (who would’ve thunk!). 

So, do you also tend to avoid networking events like the black plague? Or do you attend, but end up sticking to one corner, fading into the wall? Maybe, your goal is to get a job or maybe you’re trying to sell a product or get your event sponsored, whichever it is, I believe that when you see networking as an opportunity to just learn first and foremost, then those things may follow. So don’t be afraid of networking events, take it as an opportunity to learn and even practice your networking skills. The more you practice the better you get at it! Trust me, I’ve changed my questions from talking about the weather, to actually asking about the person. And guess what, people reaaaaalllly like talking about themselves.

SFU Co-op Student
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May 4, 2016

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