I stumbled across a study recently that spoke to a point I often try to emphasize when talking about the importance of networking – we often underestimate how caring and interested strangers are in our own stories.
As the summer approaches, sharing your story and networking with others can be a great way to learn, grow, and make connections. Most people can visualize how having a strong network and meeting new people can be beneficial, but actually starting that process often takes convincing. It can feel like reaching out to a stranger to connect is awkward or bothersome when, in reality, the worst-case scenario is the recipient of your request is busy and ignores your email. To combat this, I normally recommend finding shared connections to highlight – Penn alumni with the same major, similar interests, or campus involvements. While that’s still a good approach, the study above got me thinking about how that strategy might predominantly be to help you have the confidence and reach out in the first place. When attempting to gauge awkwardness, connectedness, and happiness, the experiments conducted showed that even when having deep conversations, we overestimate the awkwardness and underestimate how connected or enjoyable a conversation will be. These miscalibrated expectations become the biggest hinderance in even initiating a conversation, making a connection, or sharing your story with someone else.
My usual approach to encourage networking has relied on the emotional side of things. If, however, you’re data-driven and need some numbers to be convinced, hopefully this study can be used as motivation.
For more tips on networking, check out the section of our website dedicated to learning how to Make Connections and Network.