Networking as a professional can be the key to your next job. The purpose of networking is to meet people who have similar professional interests as you – like making friends!
Making friends as a professional is similar to making friends in university—minus the parties and dorm rooms. It can be nerve-wracking for some and come naturally to others, but most people struggle with beginning a conversation with a stranger.
Here are 5 ways to break the ice at a networking meeting:
1. Introduce yourself
A great way to begin conversations is by taking the initiative to introduce yourself.
“Hi! I’m Sally, What’s your name?”
“Hey, I’m Josh. I’m a business graduate. What about you?”
Follow up with other basic professional questions to keep the conversation going.
2. Ask for a round of introductions
This works great in small groups, preferably where everyone is sitting together and facing each other. For example, an orientation meeting for interns and new employees or a book club.
Usually smaller groups will gather at a café to discuss similar interests, and the networking bit occurs at the end of the meeting. However, you don’t have to wait until the end to start networking. Take charge and ask for a round of introductions:
“Hi Everyone, I would really love getting to know everybody. Can we have a round of introductions? I’ll start.”
3. Genuine compliments
Compliments make people smile and warm up to someone immediately. Plus you are spreading good vibes and that’s infectious.
“Nice shoes! I’m Mary. What’s your name?”
“I like your coat. Where did you get it? I’m Pattie by the way.”
4. Ask someone to join you while you get a drink
Large networking meetings can sometimes feel overwhelming. It is more difficult to learn everyone’s names too. Luckily, large networking meetings often have a refreshments table. If there is anyone sitting in you vicinity, then ask them to join you.
“I’m headed to grab a coffee. Would you like to come with? My name is Paul.”
5. Questions about the event
Questions about an event are a fool-proof way to start a conversation. Here are a few you can try:
1. “Have you heard X speak?”
2. “Do you have an agenda?”
3. “Which speaker did you like best?”
4. “I really liked this topic that the speaker referred to. What are your thoughts on it?”
5. “Do you know what event is next?”
6. “Who is the next speaker?”
With these tips in mind, now you’re well equipped to go out and network your way to your dream job!