YES, YOU CAN TALK TO STRANGERS

What’s the Worst that Can Happen?

By Neepa Parikh, Director, Office of Career Planning

When I meet with students who are curious about a particular profession, field, or company, I often ask if they have had the chance to talk to someone currently working in one of those areas. The response is usually, “I don’t know anyone who works at XYZ company.”  This is usually followed by me showing the student how to navigate the alumni dashboard on LinkedIn and suggesting that they consider reaching out to some of these people. “Wait, can I do that?” asks the student. A totally valid question, but let’s explore it.

When an individual is questioning whether or not they can do something, there’s usually some underlying fear of the worst case scenario playing in their mind. If I get up on stage at a karaoke bar, will everyone point and laugh at me? Will my friends stop hanging out with me? Will I be able to carry a tune? Will I die of embarrassment? You get it. Some of these questions are more ridiculous than others, but it’s worth following that train of thought to determine if the worst case scenario is 1) actually probable…I mean, have you ever heckled someone at karaoke? You’ve probably been more supportive than anything else, and 2) actually that bad?

Most people are decent human beings who love to talk about themselves. If you’re reaching out to someone to ask them about their experience as a data analyst and don’t hear back from them, your mind is likely telling you that you’ve been rejected, where in actuality, people just get busy. And, if someone genuinely doesn’t want to talk to you, is that so bad? There are plenty of people who will want to sit with you and give you career advice. But please note that asking for a job or referral may not be appropriate. Every situation is different, so talk to your career counselor if you have questions about this.

Curious about what you can gain by talking to someone in your field of interest? Check out our latest CareerFlash blog post by an Industrial-Organizational Psychology student who explores the field of organizational development through an interview.

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