Networking is an important tool that like any other tool, if used correctly, it will get the job done. The problem most people have with networking is user error. I support and teach effective networking so in the words of John Whitaker, “Save a tree and quit sending resumes . . . Network, network, network – in PERSON.”
I frequently write about the importance of networking and the fact that most people find jobs via networking, so if you are finally willing to try it, here are a few ways to break the ice.
I know this seems very elementary, but how many times have you stood around by yourself at a networking event waiting for someone to speak to? Why not take a deep breath, walk up to someone standing by themselves and break the ice? They will be eternally grateful and you have the opportunity to display a little confidence.
Ask the person you just met why they are attending the event.
People like to talk about themselves so if you hate small talk, this gives you the opportunity to let the other person talk. You can stand there and smile and nod.
Ask if they are a member of the organization.
This is a great way to get to know someone who may be a member or may even be on the board. If you’re looking for a job, knowing a board member is a good thing. They usually have insight into their sponsors who may be hiring, other organizations and all kinds of good stuff. You just have to ask.
Ask if they have attended other events with this organization or know of other similar events that may be happening soon.
This question works well because birds of a feather really do flock together. If you like this event, odds are, the people who are attending know of other events where you can meet more professionals like yourself.
Of course, when all else fails, there is always the old standby of “So, what do you do?” Don’t get discouraged if the person you’re speaking to is also looking for a job. Networking is networking. And when done right, you just may find that contact or introduction you need.
I’m always out networking, speaking or training, so if you're in Los Angeles, you're bound to run into me somewhere. If you'd rather not leave our meeting to chance, I'm available to facilitate a training for your company. You just have to ask.