By: Rachael Rysz, Career Advising Fellow
Welcome back to the 2017-2018 academic year here at Elon!
As I have begun my journey in the Student Professional Development Center, I’ve processed invaluable information for both students and faculty/staff alike. While the word ‘networking’ itself may denote some negative connotations (i.e., the dreaded awkwardness when meeting new people in a professional context), I thought it would be advantageous to relay information in regards to staying true to yourself while also going through the process of self-marketing through networking.
To define networking at its core, it is knowing yourself and knowing your audience and building connections through commonalities. Networking is more than just trying to add LinkedIn connections until your eyes are sore; it’s an opportunity to learn from others, share your skills, and enjoy getting to know someone.
As I’m striving to foster more meaningful connections in my own network here at Elon, I have become hyper-aware of noticing connections surrounding me, particularly in the stories that I’m consuming. In particular, I, like many, am still processing the season 7 finale of the hit HBO show, A Game of Thrones. Spoiler alert: How was it possible for so many of the main characters to be in the same place at the same time and live to tell the tale? I’m still demystified. Regardless, I think this season conveyed many messages, but I couldn’t help but see the connection in forming networks from a career advising perspective.
That said, I’ve gathered some tips on networking inspired by the characters of ‘A Game of Thrones’:
Do: Form Strong Alliances
Although both Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister formed an unlikely alliance (her father A.K.A. The Mad King, was killed by Tyrion’s brother, not to mention their houses hate each other) it has turned out to be a fruitful connection thus far. Daenerys, or Dany for short, has proven her strength as a leader through various obstacles she’s had to endure as well as winning over various groups of people through her honesty. Tyrion, also an underdog of the show, uses his wit and life experience to make more rational decisions and balance Dany’s spontaneity.
In the real world, being intentional about making connections with individuals goes a long way. Your network should be a two-way street where you can learn from one another and understand how your strengths could align with certain employers. Understanding an employer’s values and strengths can better allow you to make decisions about who to connect with.
Don’t: Burn Bridges
Cersei Lannister, currently the Queen of the Iron Throne, is noteworthy for quite literally killing anyone who crosses her, and sets a bad example for how to handle situations that may not be ideal.
Always be mindful of your professional presence, especially on social media and LinkedIn. You don’t want someone to get a bad impression of you and possibly diminish your network. Worse even, you never want to renege on a job or internship offer, even if a more exciting offer or connection awaits. You never know who’s connected to who!
Do: Stay True To Yourself
As we noted in those early moments in this past season when Daenerys welcomed Jon Snow to Dragonstone, they both stayed true to themselves, even though it seemed like they were talking in circles; it was evident that no one was leaving until someone got what they wanted.
Honesty is a crucial component to any relationship, but particularly when networking. It’s always important to be honest about your skills and abilities to potential employer connections. Be authentic when marketing yourself and let your personality shine!
Don’t: Think Only Of Yourself.
While many (all) of the characters on Game of Thrones can be selfish and seem to want to stake their claim to the Iron Throne, they fall shortsighted when judging another’s capabilities and decisions.
A network is a web of connections of people that you can learn from, but they can also learn from you. Don’t be afraid to use your network in various capacities, for example if you’re planning a move to a new city, or switching majors and don’t have the first clue if it’s the right fit. Talk with your connections, both in-person and through your online presence, and you may be surprised to see that others have gone through similar situations.
Do: Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Can I just say that it was super awkward to see all the rival characters (Cersei, Jon, Dany, and Tyrion) meet each other for the first time?
Networking may be awkward or intimidating, but it’s also an opportunity to broaden your horizons. We have a tendency to rely on known networks, whether it be education, age, race, ethnicity, or status. You also run the risk of limiting yourself in this way if you don’t form diverse connections outside your known network. You only know what you know, but never what you don’t know or try.
A Game of Networking may be in your future soon, after all. Remember to keep an open mind and your best professional foot forward!
…And don’t get in the way of the Night King.