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SAWANT: Change the way you think about networking to harness its true power

Column: Sincerely Rue

Reframing networking as building relationships will lead to better results.  – Photo by Rutgers.edu

If there is one word a university student knows better than Canvas, it is “networking.” Every club highlights “networking opportunities” as a reason to join, and it is often the very first piece of advice professors and advisors love to give students looking for some career help.

The word “networking” gets thrown around a lot in any university-centered conversation, so much so that it has lost any real meaning. The mere usage of the word is more attractive than what the word serves to mean. Everyone knows you are supposed to network, but not everyone actually does it or knows exactly how to.

Truthfully, it may come easier to some people than others — it requires putting yourself out there and marketing yourself to anyone who will listen with the hopes that they will remember you solely for something you said. That can be a lot of pressure — how will you know the right thing to say?

But the most valuable realization I have had so far is that networking is not difficult at all. I always assumed my elevator pitch was all there was to it, and reciting it hundreds of times to recruiters, professors, alumni and fellow classmates got mundane, exhausting and left me wondering what else I should say to fill up the gaps of silence that follow two parties introducing themselves to each other.

It is a common misconception that networking is simply two people talking about themselves back and forth. No conversation works like that (unless it is a conversation between two insufferable people). Networking, at its core, is nothing more than simply having a meaningful conversation. Your name, major and year are a great place to start but are by no means a place to end.

Even talking about your hobbies and interests and those of the other person is a great way to put yourself out there, and it makes you easier to remember if you and the other person share a certain common interest. It is also easier to carry on a conversation when there is a mutually interesting topic to talk about.

Therefore, networking is really only a business buzzword for relationship building. Every single relationship you have ever had and will ever have with anyone is a direct result of networking. From my experience, when you start to view it in this way, rather than in the frame of mind that you must market yourself properly to be worthy of the conversation (which is a lot more pressure too, by the way), you get a lot more out of the conversation.

For one thing, you learn a lot about the other person, their experiences and their personality. Such exposes you to information that opens your mind to how different people can be from each other and introduces you to a plethora of opportunities out there.

For example, Rutgers is a huge place. Oftentimes, you cannot discover all of the resources, clubs and programs it has to offer on your own. Most clubs I am in and the resources I use are those that have been passed down to me by word of mouth simply by having conversations with those around me.

The world is an even bigger place than our school, therefore it is virtually impossible to figure out all that it has to offer without some help.

The other amazing part about networking is that you market yourself in a memorable way. Everyone at Rutgers has a name, major and a class year. But not everyone is in the Rutgers Swift Society, and not everyone plays intramural volleyball. When you offer a few interesting tidbits about yourself in an easy-flowing conversation, it is easier for the other person to remember a lot of other things about you. Your interesting facts are like an anchor that makes you easier to remember. 

Think about it this way: When we see someone we have talked to before, our brain lights up in recognition of the one interesting thing we remember about them. “Hey, that is the girl who is in the Rutgers Swift Society?” or “I remember them — they play intramural volleyball.” It is not often we see someone and automatically think “hey, that is the junior majoring in finance.”

As a business student who has been told their entire undergraduate career so far that networking is the key to every successful relationship I will make, what really changed the activity for me was to stop looking at it as a high-stakes interaction. The truth is, it will not make or break my image in the eyes of the other individual, so we as a collective have to start looking at it like any other meaningful conversation with a new person and to let the rest happen as it will.

Rujuta Sawant is a Rutgers Business School junior majoring in business analytics and information technology and minoring in political science. Her column, "Sincerely Rue," runs on alternate Mondays.


*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

YOUR VOICE | The Daily Targum welcomes submissions from all readers. Due to space limitations in our print newspaper, letters to the editor must not exceed 500 words. Guest columns and commentaries must be between 700 and 850 words. All authors must include their name, phone number, class year and college affiliation or department to be considered for publication. Please submit via email to oped@dailytargum.com by 4 p.m. to be considered for the following day’s publication. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.


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