By: Alejandra Ruiz, DePaul University honors marketing major ‘16

If you’re like me, when you walk into a large conference room packed with career professionals pacing and waiting for students to approach, anxiety starts to creep in. Then, as you glance around you realize that for the next two hours your only mission in life is to make a positive, long-lasting impression on those professionals, who are also strangers. Tell me, are you also getting nauseated?

We’ve heard that networking is a fundamental tool for career exploration and growth, but unfortunately it doesn’t come naturally to many of us. That’s why the following tips will help you move past the anxiety and make your networking experience the best.

Embrace a positive mindset: The first thing you have to do is get into a positive mindset and embrace it. Remember, no matter how old you are or how much experience is under your belt, you have valuable contributions and insight to share. Be confident, and most importantly, be yourself. Take it all in, and if a conversation doesn’t go as planned, look at it as a learning experience.

Don’t judge a book by its cover: Remember, you’re going to meet people, and with that, you need to keep an open mind. Don’t assume anything about a person; you never know, that person might be the one who helps you the most.

Show your pearly whites: You’re not going to a funeral, but a networking event. Remember to smile; it will help make you look more approachable.

Know what’s in the news: The morning of, make sure you are up-to-date on major world events or even sports. Knowing what’s going on in the world and what’s currently being discussed will allow you to contribute to meaningful conversations and spark some of your own. This will help with the anxiety since you’ll be prepared with talking points.

Your pen is your best friend: After you chat with a professional, ask for his or her business card. Once you walk away from the conversation, take notes on the back of the card! This will help you remember the conversations you had with each person, which will come in handy when you follow up.

See someone you know, ignore them: Okay, don’t actually ignore them, but challenge yourself to meet fresh faces and expand your networking pool. You won’t be able to overcome the anxiety and nervousness of networking if you run up to the people you already know. Introduce yourself to new faces. Trust me, the experience will be more rewarding and you will learn to manage your fear with practice.

These tips have helped me get through many networking events. Remember, networking is a skill that is developed. With practice, you will get better at conversing with professionals and feel more relaxed during the process.