How to talk to strangers anxiety-free

By Iciar Fernandez 

Networking is a blessing and a curse. Meeting inspiring individuals that bring new perspectives and ideas can be great for career growth, particularly as students soon-to-be-introduced to the working world. However, unless you are one of the lucky few that feel completely comfortable engaging in conversation with strangers, networking can also be a great source of stress. So much so, that I’ve been guilty of avoiding attending events altogether precisely for that reason.

But not to worry, if you could get through trigonometry in high school, you can also learn to overcome social anxiety. It won’t happen overnight, but if you keep trying and follow these tips, I can guarantee you’ll end up networking like a pro!

Start small

Networking doesn’t always mean signing up for a 200+ people event – it comes in all shapes and forms. Talk to the person sitting next to you in class! Most of us go through four years seeing the same people, yet we never talk to most of them. It can be daunting, but it’s a good first step to getting out of your comfort zone. There are many more ways to connect with people in your area of interest beyond career fairs and conferences. Try volunteering, joining a club (can’t decide? check this out), or attending a guest lecture! Feeling lazy? Do some networking from your couch with LinkedIn.

Make the most out of the resources that UBC has to offer!

As a student, you have free access to an insane amount of resources to help you grow and prepare you for a career, far beyond lectures and seminars. If you don’t know where to start, book an appointment at the Centre for Student Involvement and Careers. There are many career events every month, many of them geared towards networking skills. Get going and learn more about coping strategies and increasing your confidence this Thursday (Jan 16th) at this “Panic to Power: Build your confidence” workshop. See more upcoming events in the career events calendar.

As Hugh Laurie (a.k.a Dr. House) said, “There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now”

Okay, maybe don’t rush out the door, but if you’ve attended a couple of workshops at UBC and made a few new friends in class, don’t miss your next opportunity of attending an event relevant to your career path. Keep an eye on your emails for opportunities, check out Eventbrite every once in a while, and something will eventually come your way. 

You’ve found an event. It’s time to PREF.

Prepare, Research, Engage, and Follow up. Before you go, think of a brief introduction to avoid getting nervous on the spot later on. Learn as much as you can about the person you’re trying to meet, or the organization – be informed about what you’re diving into, and you’ll automatically feel more at ease. Once you get there, talk to people! It will be a bit appalling at first, but you will feel great after, and this is what you have been preparing for. Lastly, follow-up with your connections – maintaining a network for the future is the ultimate goal! 


If you still feel uneasy about it, bring a friend at first. They will understand, and you might have to return the favour eventually. Next time will be easier, and before you know it you’ll be the one giving the tips!