Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Dear Coach Kwan,
Now that summer is here, I want to take advantage of having a break from school and focus on my job search. How can I take advantage during this time to maximize my chances of landing my dream job?
A temporarily-free-from-school international student
That is such a good mindset to have! Even if your duties as a student are temporarily paused, you can still take advantage of your free time. Summertime is a great time to take your job search one step forward!
However, when we are in a new place or with a group of people that we don’t know very well, the feeling of confidence we used to have back home can be replaced by shyness and social anxiety. In the midst of attending multiple events and making new friends in a foreign country, sometimes you won’t be able to stop yourself from comparing yourself to other people. Self-doubt takes place, and you might not be able to enjoy the conversation.
Below are a few things I would like to share with you to help you break some networking barriers and optimize this networking season during the summer!
Did you know summer is the perfect networking season?
You might think that summer is not a good time to network since people go on vacation. However, this means that people are less busy with work and have more downtime to dedicate to networking. It is easier for someone to get away from the office for a bit and grab a cup of coffee or a casual lunch with you.
People are more relaxed, and the season makes the perfect excuse for networking in a more casual environment. While you might be used to thinking of networking as a suit-and-tie professional event, that is not always the case. People are more likely to open up when in a casual environment, and that is how you can make a connection that goes deeper than surface level.
There are all kinds of events and opportunities
There are a ton of networking events hosted during the summer.
Remember that even though summer is a more casual and relaxed time, you should become lax on professionalism. Keep an approachable and friendly demeanor while simultaneously professionally presenting yourself – people will indeed notice and be impressed.
Furthermore, there are other opportunities to network! A perfect way to meet people that can become meaningful connections is through volunteering. By meeting people this way, you have the advantage of already having established a connection, since both of you are volunteering at the same place, maybe due to a mutual interest or even passion. During the summer, particularly because students such as yourself have more time, there are endless opportunities to volunteer, be it through your school, your local community, or a professional organization.
Keep the conversation going
Now that you know that summer is the perfect time to network and have found the events and opportunities for you to do so, you have to make sure that you keep the conversation going. Be friendly, approachable, and professional; you can show all of this by being a good conversationalist.
What you need to do is to be present. Practice active listening to avoid hitting a dead-end conversation. I know many of us dislike small talk. I do too. Instead of asking multiple unrelated questions, try digging deeper into the same topic. Find a topic of mutual interest and keep the conversation going from there until you peel off those layers and get more depth out of the conversation. You will be pleasantly surprised with all the interesting things you will find about your new acquaintances.
Keep some commonly used icebreakers in the back of your mind and use them when you need to. You can also always refer back to some basic questions—e.g., “is this your first time at this conference?”—if you feel a lull in the conversation.
Check out events at professional affiliations for international communities like:
Now that you are armed with knowledge, free time, and the sunny weather, go out there and take advantage! When it comes to career search, you are the one who is in the driver’s seat. All the best to you, and keep me updated! I would love to hear more from all of you who go out there and build meaningful connections.
Join the ICAway Talent Platform to learn how to build your network and career brand that draws recruiters to you
About Coach Kwan
Kwan is an experienced human-capital consultant. Her past corporate experience includes global organizations like Deloitte, Accenture, and BMW. Kwan moved to the U.S. in 2014, earned her Senior Professional HR certification from HRIC and joined one of the world’s most prestigious consulting firms as a Senior Consultant of Human Capital Consulting Practice. There, she managed multiple projects for Fortune 500 clients. Today, Kwan is the CEO and Founder of ICAway, an educational consulting firm based out of Chicago. Our mission is to be an empowering community for international students and light their way to finding jobs in the U.S.