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Navigating through the networking experience

By Katelyn Brush
On February 26, 2013

When was the last time you had a conversation with a total stranger? Sometimes stopping to talk with someone can open new doors in your life that can lead to amazing opportunities.

It's called networking. And I don't mean digital social networking. Simply talking to the person next to you can reveal opportunities you may have never even imagined. Within your major there are probably hundreds of jobs you could possibly choose. For those of you who are undeclared, hearing about other peoples' experiences can inspire a route for you to take.

Studying abroad taught me the importance of getting lost in a conversation. More often than not, I ended up talking to a total stranger and learning where to eat, where the best-hidden tourist spots are or what will be the next book to change my life. There were nights where one talk would take us from the street, to the café, to our hostel and out to the rooftop drinking wine with strangers from Russia, North Carolina, France and Italy.

We talk everyday, but at a school with roughly 8,000 students from all different backgrounds, sometimes it's intimidating to talk to someone new. The biggest anxiety: What do you talk about when you seemingly have nothing in common? 

I am always asking questions. I never did in high school because everyone hated the kid in class who asked question after question. I sat in the back figuring it's best to keep your mouth shut.

You have to remember there is almost no dumb question. There is always something we can learn from each other. Whether that means being the biggest nerd or learning about someone's life, don't fear what it reveals about you.

With 8,000 fellow students and 6 billion other human beings, there are always people who don't want to listen and ones who want to talk forever. Find the ones who want to talk to you forever because they'll get you where you want to go. These individuals also probably enjoy chatting because you share something in common. If it's a common passion, they will only lead you closer to those goals. 

It's also important to keep in touch. The greatest aid in finding my answers has been keeping in touch with people from my past. Recently, a friend of mine who lives in San Diego visited New York City, and I rode the train in to meet her. We used to share classes together and now she has graduated and found her dream job, which is similar to my own. Sitting down with her and listening to how far she's come and what she is doing now allowed me to realize it's exactly what I want. 

Keeping in touch with classmates and teachers is beneficial because they can help you find your way and because you share so many commonalities. There are the most random acquaintances worth networking with as well. 

At work one day I was talking to a customer about where I've been and what I've studied, and he offered me a full time job. Conversations with each other can do a whole range of things that we too often disregard.

If you're worried about what major to take or what job you will wind up with, try talking to everyone. Be a nerd or a butterfly, whatever! Starting a discussion is the biggest step to getting where you want to end up.

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