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Conquering the Fear of Networking Events

CPC Career Services Offers Students Tips on Connecting to Potential Employers

By Sherri Long

Knightly News Reporter

Networking events can strike fear into the hearts of many and send anxiety levels skyrocketing.

Career Services at Central Penn can help people with that fear.

Career Services hosted a networking skills workshop last month in ATEC room 200/202. The purpose of the event, held during the college’s weekly Common Hour — a one-hour leadership or cultural event for students and staff — was “to help students learn and understand the art of networking,” according to the program flyer. Career Services personnel covered “what networking is, how to do it effectively and why it is important.”

Rubina Azizdin, career counselor and part-time faculty member at Central Penn, welcomed attendees and began speaking about networking, and how Career Services can help.

“Please don’t think that you just come visit us only when you are about to graduate. It’s always great to get to know us ahead of time and get to know the resources we have to offer,” said Azizdin.

When attendees were asked, “How many feel nervous when they hear they have to go to a networking event?” most raised their hands.

“Yes, it can be overwhelming sometimes, if you don’t know what it (networking) means, who’s going to be there or what to expect,” said Azizdin. “Once you understand the basics of it, it’s really not that hard.”

Steve Hassinger and Kristin Fike of Career Services demonstrate introduction and networking skills. Career Services offers mock networking and interviewing for students and alumni. Photo by Sherri Long.

Steve Hassinger and Kristin Fike of Career Services demonstrate introduction and networking skills. Career Services offers mock networking and interviewing for students and alumni. Photo by Sherri Long.

The purposes of networking

“The more people you meet, the more connections you make, the more you’ll learn, and also the more opportunity will come to you. If you need a job or internship, you’ll know where to go and who to ask,” Azizdin explained.

Networking isn’t just for getting a job. The connections made can be resources of information for a topic or activity in which you are interested. Azizdin explained that she has found several guest speakers for the college through networking events.

“Networking can be beneficial in a lot of different ways,” Azizdin said. “You just need to know how to do it. You need to be confident in yourselves.”

Azizdin spoke about having a personal network and a professional network. Participants were asked to share who they thought would be in the two networks. Ideas given by attendees were friends, family, professors, co-workers and bosses.

She stressed the need to always be professional because, “You never know who is watching or who’s going to be your next professor, or who is at the administrator level. You always want to have a nice reputation.”

A networking video, which is a part of the online resources of Career Services, was shown. In the video, the speaker noted that “more jobs are filled through networking than any other means,” and that “networking is a life skill that will serve you throughout your careers.”

The elevator speech

A tutorial video Azizdin played about the elevator speech explained what one is and its purpose. Two points from the video were, “Consider it your work-related highlight reel,” and “the goal of an elevator speech is to enter into a higher-level conversation of what you can do for an employer.”

Attendees were given an elevator speech worksheet. Azizdin explained the importance of an elevator speech during a networking event. The three questions on the worksheet were:

  • Who am I?
  • What do I have to offer you?
  • What do I want from you?

“You really need to know yourself. You need to (say) your name, your major, your interests. And why are you approaching them,” said Azizdin. “Are you looking for a job? Are you just looking for information? You are supposed to do this within a minute.”

The etiquette of networking

Audrey Bare, Lancaster campus career counselor, asked the group for their ideas about etiquette for a networking event. Ideas shared were making eye contact, having a confident handshake and professional dress. Even the placement of a name tag is important.

“Your name tag should be on your right-hand side. That’s just familiar for people, because when you give a handshake, they can look at your name when they are introducing themselves,” said Bare.

To help reduce anxiety, Bare suggested taking a friend to the networking event “as long as you’re not standing in the corner with just the person that you took, but making sure that you’re making a plan to divide and conquer, and talk to other people.”

Before attending a networking event or job fair, Bare recommended reviewing the list of participating company representatives create a plan to meet the representatives of businesses in which you are most interested.

Career Services at Central Penn College always has plenty of job listings available in the Career Resource Center.

Career Services at Central Penn College always has plenty of job listings available in the Career Resource Center. Photo by Sherri Long.

Elevator speeches, networking and practice

Light refreshments were served and used during a mock networking exercise in which students practiced sharing their elevator speeches. Bare suggested to stand near the refreshments table because people will come to the refreshments, and the setting is more relaxed.

“This is the perfect place to meet people (and carrying extra napkins can make you very popular),” according to an article on college.usatoday.com.

Attendees networked with other students, professors, Azizdin and Bare. Elevator pitches were shared and several discussions about the networking process ensued.

Shelby Houston, PTA student, shared that she was offered one of her first jobs in her hometown of Roanoke, Virginia, through a friend at church. The employer remembered Houston being a friendly person and hired her on the spot, without an interview. Houston believes in the importance of attending networking events because “if they like you, they remember you.”

More resources

Career Services at Central Penn offers several online resources of networking and interviewing tips. Some are on YouTube; others are part of the OptimalResume resource. The Career Services resource center is in Bollinger Hall, room 53. The resource center is usually staffed Mon.–Fri., 8 a.m. –   6 p.m. Appointments are recommended to ensure someone is there and to allow for sufficient time to help.

The networking Common Hour was given in preparation for the Central Pennsylvania Employment Consortium (CPEC) job and internship fair, held Feb. 21, at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg in Camp Hill where students applied their networking skills.

For information about the employers participating, visit www.cpec.info.


Sherri Long is president of the Knightly News Media Club.

To comment on this story or to suggest a story, contact KnightlyEditors@CentralPenn.edu.

Edited by Media Club Co-adviser Prof. Michael Lear-Olimpi.

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