As translators and interpreters, we often shudder when we hear the word “networking”. It’s sort of the freelancer’s equivalent to a job interview; we feel that we need to be prepared to share our three biggest weaknesses or explain our job history or validate our qualification for our jobs. We fear that if we don’t say every word of our well-practiced 30-second elevator speech, then we’re failures. But does it really need to be so scary? Of course not.
Networking is significantly less daunting if you think of it as a combination of the following activities that we already do in our everyday personal and professional lives:
- Connecting with colleagues
- Making friends
- Helping others
- Building teams
Networking can be as simple as sharing notes with your neighbor at a conference session when one of you has missed what the speaker said. It can be sitting down at a breakfast table where no one is speaking to each other and striking up a conversation. Networking can be thanking someone you see in the hallway for their contributions to a listserv or their interesting Tweets. It can be connecting a person who has a specific need or question with someone who can answer it for them. And most importantly, networking can be a learned skill. Don’t let your introversion or social anxiety get the best of you! Seeing networking as something to be feared rather than embraced will only hold you back.
As a freelance translator, I think of the ATA conference as one of my only chances throughout the year to connect in person with colleagues I usually only get to converse with digitally. This makes my networking time all the more significant but also all the more fun! It means that the connections I make during the conference have the potential to become my virtual office, my digital colleagues, for months and years to come.
Advice about networking from past conference attendees:
Go to more than just the education sessions: try attending the conference dance party, go to the poetry reading, go to the speed networking session… try things that allow you to interact with people in a more casual setting.
– Mary @McKeeT9N
Ask lots of questions. It can be really nerve-wracking to think of what to talk about, but if you ask good questions and actively listen to the responses, conversations will come more naturally. I feel really weird talking about myself, but when I start with questions, usually they are reciprocated so it becomes a more natural conversation.
– Victoria @VCKTranslation
You will receive a pink ribbon to wear on your nametag that says “First-Time Attendee”; wear it proudly! People will definitely welcome you warmly and ask you what you think of the conference so far. Take part in Buddies Welcome Newbies and stay close to your Buddy for answers to your questions, great tips and introductions to other attendees.
Don’t forget to exchange cards so you can remember all the new people you meet and follow-up after the conference with a “nice to meet you” note/email/message.
Have a list of short conversation-openers ready, like which has been your favorite session so far, or favorite part of the conference, how many times have you been to the conference, what do you specialize in, where do you come from, etc.
– Catherine @LinguaGreca
If you set in your mind a goal to learn new things and get to know people, and get marketing yourself out of your head a bit, you won’t feel as nervous.
– David @LTTDave
Don’t worry about not “clicking” with everyone you come into contact with. It can feel daunting to chat with someone you’re impressed by or who you think or hope might offer you work, but remember to just be yourself. It’s never worth it to pretend to be someone you’re not just to impress others. Be your authentic self and be willing to let it slide right off your back when you feel like an interaction was awkward or unfruitful. It’s natural not to jibe with everyone you meet.
– Emily @saffrontrans
What other tips do you have for feeling more comfortable about networking, readers?