Networking doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Here are a few pieces of advice to keep the conversations interesting:
Don’t lead with your job title.
Good public speakers never lead with their name or credentials. Similarly, a savvy job-seeker should never lead with her job title. Instead say what you do in layperson’s terms. For example, a Technical Project Manager would say “I coordinate human resources software implementations”. A Marketing Executive might say “I make people want to learn more about pharmaceutical products.” Much more interesting (and unexpected).
Talk benefits not responsibilities.
Tell your listeners how you’ve benefited your supervisors and colleagues. Start with the results of your efforts, then if time permits talk about how you got there. This is an age-old marketing trick that works every time, especially in person. Plus, you’ll find that in discussing your impact, you light up much more than if you were merely describing your day-to-day job responsibilities (yawn).
Shut up and listen.
You’re not the only one looking to self-promote. The best way to build an ally in your own pursuits is to make sure they feel listened to. Instead of merely waiting for your turn to speak, help the other person go deeper into what they wish to talk about. They’ll remember you better and will truly want to assist you in achieving your own goals.
Start a discussion forum.
At most networking functions, everyone’s intimidated and quick to feel alienated in a room of strangers. Instead of sticking with a 1-on-1 format, bring in a third party to your discussion by asking their opinion on a subject, recalling the conversation you had earlier, or simply making an introduction for you and your new friend. 3 is a magic number. No one feels scrutinized and each party gets to talk as much or little as they want. And, most important, you get credit for making it happen.