Are you a student? Introvert? Do you freeze at networking events?

I was all three of those at once. Most people start as a networking noob, and I admit, it takes a lot of courage to go out there and walk up to someone and start having ‘genuine’ conversations with them.

But being good at networking isn’t a talent that someone’s born with - it comes from experience and skill, much like learning to ride a bike.

I want to help some of you who are reading this, so that you can learn to ride that bike way faster than I did.

Let’s throw the Hungry Student mentality out the window.

Why is there a notion that people generally avoid students? Why there’s an advice to not put “Student” on your name tag at events?

At some point in your life, we as students planted our own view of the industry in our heads. Your inner voice tells you to be better than everyone else, and you gotta do whatever it takes to get there.

We begin to compare our portfolio to our friends’, and we get jealous when we hear about their good news. We do our best to shine our portfolio and show up at networking events to brag about how amazing we are, so that people will pick us over others. We look down on others who are behind us and feel good.

But deep down inside, we know that we’re still beginners and we have merely a fraction of experience needed to ever talk with industry professionals. So whenever we meet industry professionals, we freeze and can’t think of what to say, other than awe and admire them for their recent work on XYZ game and how you wish you can join them in their endeavor.

That’s how exactly I felt during my first networking event at my school in 2017.

Many famous videogame composers visited and gave a panel. As a COMPLETE noob who didn’t even know that was a career option until on the day of their panel, I was excited at the chance to get to ‘network’ with them somehow. Unfortunately for me, as an extremely introverted student, I was quiet, scared and not sure how to feel about presenting myself professionally in front of people.

I still remember vividly how I awkwardly thanked Russell Brower for changing my life and then running furiously out of his sight.

Then, as I attended more and more networking events, I slowly learned to learn from my mistakes and relax more as I attended bigger conferences. Finally at GDC 2018, it finally hit me and I was able to escape from the Hungry Student mentality.

At GDC. I met friends who didn’t care about how good my portfolio sounded. I didn’t pass out business cards as much as I expected. I can’t name them all here, but every single second spent with every CA that I met at GDC was meaningful. They didn’t have to know that I was a sound designer. These friends were part of the GDC CA program, and we were all essentially working to make sure 30,000 other people have a good time at GDC. It was very tiresome, but it was FUN. We worked together, played together and had fun together. To many students like me, GDC transformed from a harsh waters of job searching into a week at a theme park, except we were all adults.

Over time, I forgot about my ‘secret’ agendas at GDC. I started genuinely having fun at GDC because of the CA’s. Whenever I was in the CA lounge, I felt relaxed and at home, because I wasn’t worrying about looking for jobs or getting a lead on anything. For once, I didn’t need to try to sell myself.

What’s very surprising is that you don’t need to be a CA to think of GDC as a fun place to be. There are so many people who attend GDC looking for fun things to do and fun people to hang out with. That’s why parties exist and spaces where people play board games are set up. Many people will go through different experiences and groups of people that they’ll find comfort within.

From this experience, I let that student mentality go, and suddenly became confident. I now believe, that it would be impossible for me to go to networking events and have an enjoyable time unless I am happy and feel confident in myself.

Being confident in myself does not mean that I’m faking my happiness or I have years of experience under my belt, or that I’m currently working on an awesome project.

But I’m confident in my ability to make sure that the person that I’m talking with will have a good time when they’re with me.

What I’m talking about is your personal ability to have a good time with another human being. You as someone who can provide a joyful moment of time in someone’s day. Can you walk into that room, and talk to someone and make that person laugh or have a great time? Then you’re ready.

All I’m asking you to do is to get rid of your secret intention when going to networking events. Get this simple idea erased from your head permanently.

“I’m going to make friends and hope that I get a job somehow down the line.“

instead, replace it with:

”I’m going to relax and just have fun talking with people.”

And stick to that mindset. You’ll not only actually have a good time talking with people, you’ll also end up making friends with people who are fun. If someone is not fun, or not nice to you, it’s your choice not to befriend that person. And whatever springs forth from those friendships will be so because you didn’t have an intention.

Because that’s how friendships work. You’ve made friends before in high school! You can do it.

So, what are ways you can improve your chances at having fun and making sure people you’re talking with can have a genuine good time at this year’s GDC?

The most important thing is - to have self confidence.

Know that you’re an awesome person, who everyone wants to be around and hang out with. Take off your mask and filters, and be as if you’re at home, with your best friends.

What are ways to make that happen?

  • Look for ways to tell compelling stories.

  • Learn how to continue conversations.

  • Learn how to be caring of other people’s lives and be there for them if they’re having a bad day!

  • Learn how to be funny and make them smile.

  • Learn how to play games with others and bring fun things or take people to fun places so that you can have fun.

Be yourself, and let it go.

There are also things you can do, if you’re a CA, to prepare for the best friendship experiences at GDC right off the bat:

- Go to the Saturday night food truck event. Walk up to a group and just talk to people, introduce yourself and say that you’re a new CA this year. You’ll be surprised at the response you get.
- Do Face Memory! I’m crazy and try to memorize all 450 faces. It can be incredibly rewarding when you see someone whose name you know, introduce yourself to them while saying their name, and seeing the happy surprise on their faces. You put in the effort to memorize their name to pave your friendship with that person.
- Don’t eat lunch by yourself! Go to the CA Lounge, and look for anyone who’s sitting alone, and ask if they’d like to join you for a lunch!
- Try staying at the CA Lounge just for one night to see if it’s your cup of tea! For me, this is where all the fun happens.

I’m still working on these things myself! :)

Finally, I’ll finish this guide with several books that I would personally recommend you to starting with. These books completely blowed my mind changed how I view interacting with other humans.

How To Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes
The Fine Art of Small Talk by Debra Fine
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

That’s it for this blog post. Hope this helped!