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MSc · Sophie George

Why you Shouldn’t be Afraid of Networking: My Experience at MSc Get Connected

Apr 2, 2024

Get Connected Msc Group Photo

Unfortunately, I am the type of person who thinks of the worst case scenario at any given moment. I catastrophize and ruminate and worry. As someone who has a degree in theatre, naturally, I felt a lot of anxiety before starting my business journey at Ivey. I’ve memorized more scripts than I have Excel formulas and I barely even knew what a stock was prior to delving into the case study method. When I arrived at Ivey, people were talking about coffee chats, incubators, and LinkedIn InMails. It felt like everyone was speaking a language that I wasn’t familiar with.

The pressure was on as I knew that I would have to learn this foreign language not only for my classes but also for Get Connected, a networking event put on by Career Management. We spent all year gearing up for this event and, while the career management classes certainly helped prepare us, putting skills to practice is something entirely different.

My anxious mind convinced me that I was bound to fail at this event. While I had been preparing for the past 7 months, I was still not fluent in the language that everyone around me was. How would I make it through the 12-hour day filled with intellectual discussions and important connections to be made? But don’t get me wrong – I was excited too! A day in Toronto with my friends filled with great food, interesting panel sessions, and the opportunity to wear a blazer…count me in!

Of course, I ruminated on all of this while travelling to the bus that would take us to Toronto. The 6 am bus to Toronto held a group of very sleep-deprived students, but excitement still permeated the air. We all knew how important this day was to build community, bond, and grow our network of connections.

Arriving at the Board of Trade at 8 am, we were greeted by a delicious brunch and coffee. After this much-needed fuel, we left for the first event of the day: an office visit and panel discussion at PwC. Walking around the office was an exciting opportunity to gain firsthand insight into a company I admire, particularly due to its presence in my hometown of Winnipeg, where I aspire to work post-graduation. This was the first networking event of the day and the first moment where doubt and anxiety began to creep in. However, I immediately felt better after the first few minutes talking with current PwC employees who have walked the same path that I have at Ivey.

Following lunch, I had a one-on-one coffee chat where I was able to talk candidly with an alumna who is currently working in one of my fields of interest – editorial content. We bonded over our mutual background in the arts community and the importance of being well-rounded in the business world. Interestingly, he didn’t scoff at my undergraduate degree; rather, it was something we bonded over.

The rest of the day was filled with various panels and networking. One session that particularly resonated with me was centred on sustainability and social impact. As someone deeply passionate about fostering socially responsible business practices, engaging in candid conversations about these critical topics was both inspiring and enlightening. I asked a question, my hand shaking, and expected the worst. Instead, I got two very thoughtful answers and confirmation that my question was a great one.

As the panel events drew to a close, the atmosphere shifted to one of camaraderie and celebration during the happy hour and final networking session. Surrounded by industry leaders and fellow Ivey alumni, we exchanged insights, ideas, and aspirations over delicious drinks and appetizers, further enriching the day's experience.

I survived the day and, in fact, I had a wonderful experience. Here’s what I learned:

First, consider the best possible scenario, not the worst. Although it can be difficult, having a positive mindset opens opportunities for possibility and optimism, which feels a lot better than pessimism and stress.

Second, there is power in reframing. I now try to think of networking not as something intimidating, but an opportunity to build community, explore, and grow.

I’ll end with this: if you come from a unique background, embrace it. People don’t want to talk to 40 carbon copy versions of the same student for an entire day and they certainly don’t want you to put on a façade. In business and in life, storytelling is everything. Your story makes you stand out. It makes you special. And if you’re still worried, take a page from my book and make networking into a performance. Of course, not in a disingenuous way, but as an opportunity to stand out and shine!Conversations are like improv – no one knows what you’re going to say, so don’t panic.

Fake it until you make it because the show must go on! Break a leg – you’ll be great.