Networking for Dummies

This blog was written by Jessica Moo Young ’19, 2019-2020 Davidson Impact Fellow for Habitat for Humanity International.

When I took the Myers-Briggs type indicator four years ago, it told me what I already knew: I’m an introvert. So as I started to think about a career, the idea of networking loomed. Work-related or not, I was always unlikely to approach a stranger and start talking; throw in name tags, job descriptions and business cards and the situation seemed even more strained. Striking up conversation with the sole purpose of making a contact or landing a business deal was just too transactional. With this understanding, I went 21 years without attending a single networking event. After starting my fellowship at Habitat for Humanity
International, my hard-earned streak was quickly broken. Within a month and a half, I had networked everywhere from DC to Bangkok and back.

Though I’m still nowhere close to being a networking aficionado, redefining my approach has helped me to start building a meaningful community for myself. Rather than stepping outside of my comfort zone, I’m extending its range in many senses of the phrase. Before walking into any work function, I find time to compose my thoughts and set a tangible goal for myself, for example, to meet 3 or 4 people and engage in great conversation with each. (Reminder: still an introvert.) It might take longer to meet people, but it also allows more time to connect with them on a deeper level and in more personal settings. Instead of going with the usual what-do-you-dos and who-do-you-knows, I focus on questions that I’m genuinely interested in asking. My go-to is, “How did you get to where you are now?”—a question that tends to cover a person’s career decisions, changes, journey and growth. The answers are always inspiring and help me to understand different thought processes and pathways to success.

Growing up, I thought that a career meant finding a job and sticking with it ‘til death do you part. But in speaking with others across different sectors and fields, I’ve found that people are dynamic, change is inevitable and there is not one way to pursue a career—which can be made up of several positions at various organizations en route. With these new findings and the ones to come, I’ve opened myself up to a world of opportunities, arguably much more daunting than casual conversations with colleagues.

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