Two friends conversing during sunset. Image from Unsplash.com.
I was very shy growing up. In school, at home, and any outdoor activities my parents signed me up for, I was known as “the quiet kid”. I would always like to keep to myself and be soft spoken even though I had a very large and tight knit friend group. It wouldn’t be until my high school years where my presence took a turn. I’m not sure what clicked in me, but I suddenly decided to branch out more than I ever have. Getting out of my comfort zone and actively engaging in new conversations with different people was nerve-wracking at first, but it is now a core value of mine that continues to guide me through life.
My time throughout high school was filled with making connections. Especially during my last two years in the Middle College Program at Las Positas College, I learned how to speak to others professionally. This helped my transition to San Jose State University as I made it a goal of mine to find my place in the school. I joined three different organizations during my freshman year, and maintained that during the COVID-19 pandemic. Taking on a leadership position in an online environment was tough, but not impossible. Active communication and being genuine was key in making the most out of a terrible time of life. The internet continues to grow each year; online connections, in my experience, are just the same if not better. Making the effort to hop in calls to study or play games over Discord brought new friendships that I still have today. The transition back to in-person was a struggle at first, but there was an overwhelming wave of relief and happiness being able to connect face-to-face again. Since then, I’ve come to make more meaningful and deep connections; here are tactics that can help you achieve the same goal:
Open Up First:
We’ve all been there. Small talk. Going through these short and awkward conversations can be draining. My best tip: don’t think too much! Let the conversation flow naturally. Think about what you’d like to know more. What I personally like to do is act like I already know them. We loosen up more around those we are close to, and that’s still you. If they ask how your day was, don’t be afraid to go in detail; be vulnerable. New topics will start popping up in conversation and be more carefree. Find similarities and connect above surface level.
People want to know you for you. Through networking, this is your chance to express yourself wholeheartedly and for others to get to know what you stand for. Stick to your own core values and decisions to find those that best align with your personality. Be with those people who bring you up, not push you down. Be present and follow your heart. Once you discover your authentic self, not only will networking and making new connections come easy, but you can overcome those obstacles to reach your goals.
One-on-one Lunch Meets:
This is the biggest one for me. If it’s for business or just for fun, going on a one-on-one lunch meet can help you make these connections fast. Within the past 3 months, I went to lunches with people that I was already close with and people I wanted to get to know more about. Even with my crazy busy schedule this semester, I wanted to make time to develop more meaningful friendships especially in the spirit of networking this semester. There’s something different about these kinds of conversations; I found myself to be more open and vulnerable. By the end of each meet, I only grew closer with every person. You can’t get these types of connections through groups. If you’ve been wanting to get to know someone better, simply ask to hang out! More often than you think, people are just shy about asking too. Be the one to take initiative, and let the waves flow from there.
Kaitlyn (left), Alithia (middle), and Kristi. Image taken by Janice Lee and edited on Canva.com.
A new way I’ve started to network with others was using HiWave. They are small round stickers fit to put on your phone, water bottle, laptop, and more. All it takes is a tap from someone else’s phone, and it’s an instant connection! Get your own HiWave for FREE at HiWave.co. It’s true what they say: college is what you make out of it. I urge you to get up, get out, and introduce yourself to someone new today. A new lifelong connection may be just around the corner.