Tackling your Fear of Networking

Written by: Cate O’ Connor

After a reluctant start, I have become a great networker. But, I still don’t walk into rooms full of people I don’t know and strike up conversation at random. How can both of these things be true? Because, while networking can involve being great at small talk, it doesn’t have to. For me, and other introverts like me, great networking is about relationship building.


Instead of focusing on meeting a large number of people, I prefer to meet and get to know people one at a time. When I’m preparing to meet someone new, I read their LinkedIn profile and prepare a number of curious questions I have based on what I know about them. I stick with open ended questions so that I can encourage the person I’m meeting to share more. Through these conversations, I’ve gotten to know people across industries and learned about so many different career fields.


This sounds way better than walking into a room and striking up conversation at random, right? So, how do you do this at an event like NextFest? A room full of 100 organizations just waiting for you to walk up and make small talk? You skip the small talk. And, you walk in with intention.


  1. Research the organizations and decide who you want to talk with at NextFest: https://unca.joinhandshake.com/career_fairs/7592/student_preview
  2. Bring with you a list of curious questions. These should be based on what you know about the organization from preliminary research. Choose open-ended questions (“What?” “How?” “Why?”)
  3. Be prepared to mention a few things about yourself: name, major, year in school, experience, and what you may be interested in exploring.
  4. Walk up to the table of choice, introduce yourself, then ask your questions.
  5. If you like what you hear, ask for a business card, and then follow up after NextFest.


It really is as simple as that! The people staffing the booths are here to talk with you, and they do this on a regular basis, so they are ready and willing to take the conversation and run with it! You’ll leave with information, and, the confidence that you CAN become a great networker, no matter how reluctant your start.

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