It’s like a nightmare come to life. You’re in a large room full of well-dressed strangers happily chatting together and you know no one. You feel completely awkward and you’re not sure what to do. And you forgot your pants.
Just kidding about the pants thing.
But, really, almost everyone can remember a situation in which they felt that they should be making conversation and meeting people, but they were overcome by shyness. While totally understandable, that shyness can actually be a major obstacle to achieving your career goals. Throughout your college career and life after LU you’ll find yourself in many potential networking situations, and you’ll need to get over that fear of getting out of your comfort zone so you can talk to people.
Of course, this is easier said than done, so here are some tips to help you feel more comfortable breaking the ice.
1. Be fearless. This one may sound obvious but it works. Walk up to someone, stick out your hand, introduce yourself, ask them about what they do, then shut up. People love to talk about themselves – so let them. Also, being quiet means you don’t have to steer the conversation and let them take the lead.
2. Be well-read. Knowing what’s going in the industry or discipline you’re interested in can provide you with topics to discuss when you first meet someone or to bring up when you experience a lull in a conversation. Also, (on top of the inherent value of knowing about your field) being well-informed is an impressive quality and can help you stand out.
3. Initiate something. If you want to learn more about someone or what they do, there’s only so much you can get from your first meeting, especially if it’s in a room full of people. Suggest meeting in person for coffee or lunch in a less busy setting, which will help your ideas flow more smoothly and make you both more comfortable.
4. Follow-up within 24 hours. Don’t just throw someone’s card in the bottom of your bag and forget about it. That would be wasting your contact. Getting in touch with people quickly shows that you’re serious about pursuing the relationship you’ve formed. An email message works fine, but a handwritten note can be even nicer.
5. If the conversation isn’t going well, release the person. You can always excuse yourself if they have lost interest or there isn’t any rapport building. Say something like, “Well, it was nice meeting you and we should both probably mingle a little more. Thanks again for chatting!” and then let them go. You don’t want to be a clingy networker that doesn’t allow the people they’re talking to to leave. Plus, the point is to meet as many people as you can, so you might as well move on to the next person.
Hopefully following some of these tips can help you feel more comfortable striking up conversations with new people and honing your networking skills!
Tips summarized from here.