We are a society built on small talk. Every minute of every day, the interactions with the young man who happens to take the worn bus seat next to yours, the taxi driver, the grandmother whose grandson is staring intently at the fish tank at the pediatrician’s office, the senior colleague who unexpectedly sits next to you on the plane ride to a conference – these small moments can define relationships. Unfortunately for me, and, I believe, many of us, the art of small talk falls into that dreaded category “networking,” which inspires frozen tongues and heart palpitations.
I have heard many stories about chance encounters that have lead to soaring achievements, the missed connections preceding plummeting promise. In a professional world, how do we make sure that we connect based on shared goals while also succeeding at interpersonal connection? There are several introvert’s guides to networking, all with some similar themes. I’d like to share a few thoughts that I know are goals of mine – my hope in writing this is that I will be more persistent about adhering to them as well!
- Commit to an “elevator speech.” Be able to explain your goals in 2 minutes to someone who is not in your field. Adding to that – have a way to explain the implications of this work, and where you want it to go. This is a reminder to myself as much as advice for others. This speech changes over time, as experience and goals shift, but should be enough to lodge your interest in someone’s brain so that they think of you if something comes up that is relevant to your interests.
- Tell EVERYONE your interests. If you don’t say anything, no one will even think of you when an opportunity comes up.
- Introduce yourself to a stranger even when feels it safer to stay quiet. If it doesn’t go anywhere, then at least they know your name.
- Have a short conversation, then follow-up later and suggest a one-on-one chat. These allow you to delve deeper into what you need, and promote deeper connections in an environment that is more comfortable.
- Resist the urge to run away and (insert solitary activity here). After the event is over, you can sit quietly and reflect deeply, but just brave the discomfort to make it through. If nothing else, it will provide some fodder for your next journal entry!