The best thing about networking is that it’s easy, and it’s a skill everyone can learn and develop. Essentially, networking means talking to people, it’s all about making new friends, and I mean who wouldn’t like that, right?
Networking is a game changer in the professional world. Whether you are looking for a new job or simply trying to develop yourself professionally, there are many things that you can learn from engaging with other people. To give you an idea of what networking can do here are some of the benefits:
- Expanding your circle of contacts
- Developing relationships for mutual gain
- Sharing information
- Getting yourself noticed
- Building reputation and self-esteem
All of these are considered to be essential for your career. But networking seems to be particularly useful in business, that’s why jobseekers who want to work in the corporate world are expected to show they can take the initiative and start a meaningful conversation. Apart from that, they also need to demonstrate excellent communication skills and leadership, so what better way to show you can do that than making the first step and approaching other professionals?
See Also: A Guide to Networking for Shy People
Approximately 5 to 10 minutes are enough to break the ice with someone and give the other person a chance to get to know you. So if you are planning on going to a networking event here are some useful conversation starters to help you out:
1. Introduce Yourself
If there’s somebody you want to meet at the event, go up there and tell them who you are. It is as simple as that. You can always start off by saying something about yourself that the other person can relate to, but this, of course, depends on who you are talking to. So if this person is within your industry or works in a profession you would like to get into, give them a reason to want to talk to you.
Here is an example:
‘Hi, I am [Your Name] and I work for [Name of Company]. My role there is [Job Duties] and I couldn’t help but noticed that you are in the same position in [Name of Company]. How do you find it working there?
As you introduce yourself, give the other person a firm handshake they will remember and take it from there. Once you start, everything that follows gets simplified.
2. Go for Small Talk
Many people don’t realise the importance of small talk but it can do a lot in terms of networking. In fact, it is and always has been an excellent conversation starter. A simple question of ‘how do you do’ or ‘how was your day’ is more than enough to break the ice and give the chance to others to continue the conversation. The trickiest part of small talk is that it can often be stagnant and boring when you don’t put much effort into making a real discussion. So, whatever you do avoid going into that awkward ‘what’s the weather like’ debate.
3. Say Thank You
Another way to approach someone at a networking event – especially when that someone is the spokesperson, the host or an important speaker is by thanking them. So you can say something like this:
“I have to say thank you for such an inspiring speech. I really enjoyed your presentation and have some things I would like to ask you about [The Subject], if you have the time. Would you like to join me for a coffee? I am heading to the refreshments area right now, and would love some company.”
This is a great way to start a conversation as you give credit to the person you are engaging with. Everybody loves compliments, so you get their attention by coming off as a friendly individual who is interested in what they have to say.
4. Ask for Advice
Asking for advice is an old trick that is always effective. Here are two examples that can help you out depending on your situation:
(1)“Hi, I am interested in working as a [Chosen Profession], and I am making my first steps into the field. Since you are already established in the industry, do you have any tips to give me on how to land a job in the [Chosen Profession].
With this opening line, you are letting the other person know that you are actively looking for a job without asking them if they are aware of any openings in the industry. Also, you are asking for some advice, which isn’t very difficult and can lead to some interesting results.
(2) “Hi, I have never been to this event before, but you look like someone who knows their way around. Could you give me some tips on what to expect? What are the best sessions here?”
Asking someone for advice puts them in a position of power and encourages them to continue the conversation. Since this isn’t an enquiry that requires a yes or no answer, it can potentially lead to a stimulating conversation and even get you some excellent company at the event.
If you want to make some useful contacts, preparation is in order. Before attending a networking event, prepare a list of good questions you want to ask other professionals or employers and make the first step by talking to them.
Have you ever been to a networking event? How did you approach other people? Let me know in the comments section below...