#ShyGirlProblems: NETWORKING. My worst freaking nightmare…
Do you ever have a wave of anxiety before a social event? You’re thinking to yourself, “Oh God, this is not gonna go well at all.” I do. Almost all the time. I think about how people will perceive me and what they’ll think of me after I’m done talking with them. It’s nerve-wracking. It’s annoying. It’s everything opposite of good. I definitely felt that wave on October 24, the day of Intern Pursuit: an event I put off until this year. A bunch of companies such as ad agencies, PR firms, nonprofits, etc. get together and, well, pursue potential interns for the spring. The whole day and the day before, I’m thinking, “What am I supposed to say? What questions to ask??? WHAT DO I DO??!?!!?!” I even googled “how to network for shy people”. It is THAT serious.
So I got home after my 3:00 class to iron my white shirt, safety-pin it up (#bustygirlproblems), and finalize my outfit.
Black Banana Republic suit jacket? Check.
Black knee-high skirt? Check.
Mint heels? Check.
Nose ring retainer in? Check.
Done and done! With that, I set out to prepare for one of the most excruciating moments of my life. I got to the bathroom outside the ballroom and switched shoes (come on, did you really think I walked all the way to this event in my heels?), signed in, and braced myself.
The first table I visited was a nonprofit called Feeding Children Everywhere. I forgot what I rehearsed in my head, mostly, so I just said “Hello, it’s nice to meet you, I’m Abeni, I’m an Ad-PR (advertising-public relations) major, I’m a huge fan of your organization and what you do!” I guess my #1 question for all the tables I visited was “What is a day-to-day like for an intern?”, because that was the only question I could think of to ask. On the bright side, I got a free cup of lentil.
The next table: City Year Orlando, a nonprofit that helps children to stay in school. This one is my favorite right from the start. Again, I had no clue what else to ask besides the stock “day-to-day intern” stuff, so I let the girl next to me take it away. But this isn’t to say I’m not interested in this organization, no! I still am, and I’m hoping to get an internship next spring.
Next table: Center for Independent Living, a nonprofit that works with disabled citizens to help them get on their feet and pave the way for achieving independence. I think I did pretty great with this one because of the fact that I told them I have an autistic brother and I’ve worked with autistic children before (both of which are facts). Sadly, I might have to pass on this one for now because the listing says I need reliable transportation and I kind of don’t have that for the time being.
Next table: Moxe Integrated Marketing Agency. Now THIS one I totally bombed, and it looks like I’m not going to get an interview anytime soon…enough said.
The last 5 tables consisted of an art museum in Maitland (we hit it off big time, me and the lady at the table), the Office of Student Involvement here at UCF (here’s hoping!), Central Florida Community Arts (again, here’s hoping!), a radio station (this one maybe not as much but it’s definitely being taken into consideration for the future!), and Visit Orlando (this was totally rushed because the event was ending and honestly isn’t my top choice).
This brings me to the end. I walked out of the ballroom straight to the bathroom to trade my mint heels for flip flops. Needless to say, my feet were KILLING ME! But what did I learn?
- Make a list of questions to ask the employers so you’re not stumbling over your words like I was most of the time.
- DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Look up your desired companies and read about them.
- Not a tip, but I was told at a last-minute info session that employers WILL notice you walking around and flag you down. That never happened to me. I don’t even think it happens.
- Be yourself. I know you’re tired of hearing this crap, but it’s better than pretending to be somebody that you’re not.
- Know that these people want YOU as their intern as much as you want to work for them.
That’s all I got because I’m new to this networking stuff, but hey, everyone’s gotta start somewhere, right? I guess I can only get better from this point…I hope.