How I Survived This Year’s Student-Alumni Networking Mixer
By Taylor Ha ’18, BA in Journalism
There’s nothing wrong with networking. It’s a fabulous opportunity – you meet people who might become mentors, colleagues or bosses. Even if your conversation doesn’t transcend a LinkedIn invitation, you probably learn something useful. But for people like me – shy students who are reluctant to throw themselves into a room packed with ambitious, assertive strangers – it’s the mosh pit of doom.
When I first heard about the 8th Annual Students and Alumni Networking Mixer, I told myself I wouldn’t go. It’s not necessary, I thought. I already have a decent resume, cover letter writing skills, and a few connections. I’ll be fine.
But a week before the mixer, my boss convinced me otherwise. “You know how important it is to meet and network with people from many industries and all walks of life,” she wrote in an email. “This is an opportunity for all of you to meet great people and make connections.”
So I went. My friend and I arrived at the Hilton Garden Inn at 5:50 p.m, ten minutes before the mixer began. We sat in her car in the hotel parking lot, quizzing each other on the best questions to ask alumni. “C’mon, Taylor, let’s go already,” she said. “I don’t want to be late.” I was ready to take notes with my notepad and pen, and I had more than 15 of my business cards tucked in my pocket. But I couldn’t bring myself to open the car door.
When we stepped inside the hotel, with over 150 people in attendance, I saw my supervisors from the Career Center. Kimberly found my nametag and carefully clipped it onto my baby blue cardigan. I exhaled. It’s time, I told myself. You’re graduating from Stony Brook in two months. It’s time to find a job.
Spoiler alert – no one invited me to an interview, and I haven’t found a full-time job yet. But in those two hours of networking, I found something better.
I heard stories from alumni who know and understand everything about transitioning from college to career – the fear, the flood of job applications, the feeling of ‘What am I going to do with my life now?’
Do things that scare you, they said. Be adaptable to change – you’ll figure out the kinks along the way. Strike up a conversation with strangers on the street because you never know whom you’ll meet. Reach out to people with your resume – the worst they can do is ignore you. Send handwritten thank-you notes after in-person interviews. Share your new content with connections on LinkedIn. And when you feel lost and overwhelmed, remember your values and vision for your life. Or take a walk – everyone needs a dose of fresh air.
And I also spoke with people who helped me grow as a job hunter and a journalist, like Bedel Saget.
Saget, a New York Times graphics/multimedia editor and President of the SBU Alumni Association, showed me how to stand out as a writer. We each have a unique perspective – our own way of telling stories and seeing the world, he said. Emphasize your point of view – how your eye is more engaging, more unusual than everyone else’s. Prove your versatility as a writer with a diverse portfolio of stories. And when I came home that night, I found a surprise in my inbox – an email that said, “I enjoyed meeting and speaking with you at tonight’s mixer. Cheers, Bedel.”
It was a humbling experience. You realize that all these strangers standing before you, these adults poised in pantsuits and heels and ties, were once 21-year-olds searching for jobs, just like you. They’re not here to interrogate you – they’re here to help you learn and pursue your passions. So if you’re a student and you’re nervous about coming to the next annual mixer – or any networking event, for that matter – remember this: They’re people, just like you.
P.S. If you’re having trouble with planning your future, check out the four-year career success roadmap from the Stony Brook University Career Center. It’s a handy tool – you can chart and organize your career development process from freshman to senior year.
Responses from other mentees who shared their networking experiences:
“I enjoyed networking with students and alumni in an on-campus setting. This event provides an invaluable opportunity for students to begin developing their networking skills in the comfort of the Stony Brook University campus while also empowering more experienced students and alumni to enrich their networks with new, diverse, and indispensible connections.” – Daniel Lilly ’19, B.S. in Business Management
“Met some interesting people and got some good advice. I got an interview afterwards.” – Philip Koehler, MBA Student
“I came in nervous and apprehensive about graduating and applying for jobs. After the mixer, I was both motivated and excited to apply for jobs.” – Jessica Chin ’18, B.S. in Journalism
*Some responses are condensed and/or edited for spelling.