The Art of Casual Networking
‘Networking’ is a word that, for some, is extremely daunting. For all of the workshops and classes we can take, books we can read, and tips we can try to remember, the truth is that networking does not always come easily or naturally to everyone.
Whether it is shyness or awkwardness at feeling like you have to sell yourself, there are many reasons as to why building connections to help forward your career can be uncomfortable. Don’t worry, not everyone has to be a master in collecting business cards.
Luckily, there is one easy way to build your network that does not require attending business events: Constantly talk about your passion.
Whatever it is you love doing and want to do as a career, talk about it. All the time. To your professors and peers, yes. But also to your friend who you haven’t seen in years, your hair stylist, the person you just met on the subway, your mailman.
It can be as easy as responding to, “How are you?” with, “I’ve had a busy day researching job openings at marketing firms.” It is an easy, honest way to mention your job search in a casual conversation and you never know who will know someone who can connect you to a job.
Lauren Cohan of The Walking Dead said once in an interview that she met the head of casting at CBS while working as a waitress in L.A., impressed him while on the job, and landed an audition.
I myself got an industry connection through my dentist, who asked me what I was studying in school while his hands were inside my mouth. Another time, someone who I sat next to on the plane while flying home for Christmas offered me his sister’s contact information because I spoke to him about my career interests and he thought she could help me out. In neither case was there any formal networking happening, just an as-luck-would-have-it moment.
The majority of people you speak to might not have any leads for you, but if you cast your line enough times, chances are that someone will have a valuable connection or even just great advice to help you out. For those who find professional networking overwhelming, a good place to start is by talking about what you love to do to whoever will listen.
And who knows? All it might take to get your foot in the door is a quick conversation with your grocery store cashier.
About the Author
Ashley Kim is a college senior about to finish her B.A. in Film Studies. Currently living in Southern California but originally from Seattle, her time is spent writing, traveling and studying abroad, and navigating the job market. After college, she hopes to find a job where she can practice what she loves every day: writing. She can be found on her blog and Twitter.