Missed opportunities: Networking in unconventional settings — Betty’s Career Tip

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines networking as “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions.” It’s a very important aspect of developing your professional connections. When you think of networking, you may imagine using traditional approaches such as friends, family, classmates, professors and student organizations.

Have you ever thought of the missed networking opportunities by overlooking unconventional settings? When I say unconventional, I mean waiting in line at the grocery store or coffee shop, working out at the gym, attending a sporting event or traveling on an airplane. In initiating a conversation, the thing to keep in mind is the common ground you share with each other (e.g., similar grocery brand, favorite coffee flavor, various workout routines, interest in favorite sport team or the final destination of your travels). From there you can expand on other things you have in common. You may even discover a networking opportunity at your dentist’s office.

Several months ago, I met with a new dentist. She asked me what I did and where I worked. When I shared with her that I work with engineers and assist them with all aspects related to their career development, she told me her husband was a software engineer for Honeywell. I mentioned we sometimes look for professionals to assist us with special events and she said she would let her husband know. Later that day, I received an email from him introducing himself and asking how he could assist us and the students. I advised him we were working on our fall programs and would let him know.

Several months later I reached out to him, and explained we were looking for professionals to share their career experiences and insights for Career Exploration Night for first-year students. He agreed to participate as a panelist in one of our mixer rooms, where students had an opportunity to ask him questions about his career path.

During the event, he was very open with the students. He shared information about mistakes he made as a student, how he found a last-minute internship and gained valuable experience, and he also shared his career development as a software engineer. He then shared valuable tips regarding resumes and interviewing. His mixer was well-attended and was one of the reasons the event was a success.

The reason I share this story with you is to stress the importance of being open and receptive to unconventional networking settings. If I had not engaged in a dialogue with my dentist, the students wouldn’t have had the opportunity to network with him and learn from her husband’s valuable experience.

If you want more information on networking, schedule an appointment with staff or peer career coach in Handshake.

Betty Boza is a career development specialist for the Fulton Schools Career Center. Her primary responsibility is assisting online, graduate and doctoral students with all aspects of career development including resume preparation, professional network expansion, effective job search strategies and mock interviews.