About a month ago, I booked a place at an even called Creative Newcastle, in which I would get to meet and listen (because I assumed there would be PowerPoint presentations from every organization) about opportunities for, you guessed it, creative careers in Newcastle. Right?
It didn’t start well for me. First, I arrived about ten minutes late, and hesitated for two about whether I should go in or if it would just be too rude. I finally went in, apologised and sat at the back for a short presentation, which concluded with: “So that really helped me!”
Great, I already have no idea what we are talking about. Okay, the lovely woman that is doing the presentation gives the students in the room a quick run-down about who everyone is: “So they worked at the Sage, and them at Seven Stories, and them at Generator…” Slowly, I horrifyingly realise I know maybe half of the names in the room, but never matter, I’m sure when they go up there to give their presentation I will know all I need to know before I approach them. She finished introducing them by saying ‘So, network!’ Someone raises her hand and she tentatively asks if we could please be told what the companies are doing. “That’s the beauty of networking!” says the woman at the front, and indicates where we can get tea and coffee.
Now, this is super intimidating. By a stroke of luck I’m not wearing sweats but something relatively smartish, but I feel totally disarmed and unprepared. I’m not very good at talking to people to start with so I head to the coffee table and find a nervous ally. We are going around tables and asking people what they do. Slowly, I start getting more and more confident (I think the strong black coffee might’ve helped push me through). I even run into Beth! (Hi, Beth!) Finally, I leave, having spoken to everyone I needed, gotten some positive feedback from a particular organisation and feeling pretty good about myself, with a stack of papers in my bag. I’m going to have to look at this volunteering thing, that’s what really helped her.
However, I must say I was lucky, because I wasn’t prepared for this at all. With that in mind, here’s some advice to make your experience less nerve-wrecking than mine.
- Get prepared. I mean don’t go overboard but wearing something nice never hurt anyone and if you make a good enough impression on one of these people and then apply for a position, they might remember you as that ‘lovely and interesting’ girl/guy they met at that university event (or some description similar to this one)
- Be on time! Your potential employers – or volunteer position giver-people for lack of a better term- might remember who you are and yo don’t want them to remember you for being that person that got in late and went to sit at the back because you were disrupting a presentation.
- Relax! It’s not that big a deal. This is the hard one. Yes, you are trying to impress them, but it’s not an interview situation. They are trying to sell themselves as much as you are trying to sell yourself to them: these organisations need volunteers and the more experience they have, the better it is for them. So keep that in mind while you speak to them.
- Be polite, don’t swear, try not to spill tea (success!) or biscuits (fail.) all over yourself.
- Don’t overthink it! For now, you are just having a look. Think of it as window shopping and then do some personal research on the organisations online.
If you have anything else you wish to add, please do.