By Fayette Fox, Jaunty's Writer and Community Manager
There are few activities as important and disliked as networking. Fortunately, brushing up your social intelligence skills can help. At Jaunty's free workshops and courses, we teach how to have the confidence to approach anyone, strike up a conversation, and build a genuine connection. Once we have the skills, we're able to put an emotional wedge in our anxiety and can actually have fun approaching strangers at networking events.
Andrea Misir, Jaunty's Social Media Manager in New York City, recently got laid-off from her other job, doing account and campaign management for a third-party mobile ad server. (Basically it's a tech company that puts out the ads for people to click.) Job hunting can be stressful, but Andrea has a great attitude about getting laid-off and knows not to take it personally. For her next job, she's looking for a client services or account management role at a digital ad company. Lately, she's been going to a lot of networking events.
Here are some of Andrea's best networking tips.
"Believe it or not, networking is awesome, whether or not you're looking for a job," Andrea says. She likes networking events as a way to meet new people and feels they're "great to get other perspectives of what's going on in a specific industry or to even get a drinking buddy." She learns about events through industry group newsletters, Eventbrite, and occasionally through social media posts.
From our research at Jaunty, we know approaching strangers is one of the hardest social skills for many people. What if they think we're being too forward or weird? Andrea feels networking events are actually very safe places to try out our approach skills because everyone is there to meet people. "People aren't going to be assholes at networking events. They're not going to say, 'Hey get out of my face!'" she laughs. "Realizing that nothing bad is going to happen if you don't hit it off with anyone, is a good reminder. They're not going to pull out pitchforks if you try to start a conversation."
How to approach
"People will always respond to positivity," Andrea says. You can compliment people on their clothing or jewelry. In fact, some networking experts recommend wearing something distinctive to events for other people to use as an ice breaker. Andrea was actually able to strike up a conversation with a woman as she complimented her pretty turquoise necklace.
If there's a circle of people, stand next to someone and make eye contact. You can wait for them to talk to you or just introduce yourself. Remember to use open body language to seem more approachable.
What to say
After you introduce yourself, ask what they've gotten up to today. If you've come to a free Jaunty workshop, you know how you can thread off their response. It's better to have a playful back and forth than get into "interview mode" asking them too many questions.
At a recent Mobile Monday event, Andrea met someone from FanDuel, a fantasy football league with cash prizes. Riffing off a little football knowledge she gleaned from her boyfriend, they had an animated conversation about imbedding microchips in football players to gather new data that could be used to make better player predictions when creating fantasy football line-ups. Andrea enjoys being playful in conversation, "Threading and letting your imagination run wild. Especially at a happy hour, you don't want to be too buttoned up."
You can also talk about your own experience. Try threading off something that's happened recently and tie it back to your own story. For example, on a recent rainy day when NYC was poised to get another hurricane, Andrea mentioned Hurricane Sandy. That got people to open up about how they were impacted by the storm, great stories that lead to long conversations.
Andrea likes asking people about things they're proud of and watch them light up. "You'll never have a dull conversation if you talk about something they're passionate about." If it's something you don't know much about, it's a great opportunity to learn more. And if you share their interest, you might have just found yourself a new activity partner.
If you're looking for a job, feel free to mention it at some point; just don't lead with it. It's better to build a connection first.
Andrea's networking is paying off already. In fact, later today she has a meeting with a Marketing Manager from a global package delivery service who she met at networking event!
Photo credits: Angry Mob, Robert Couse Baker, Flickr, CC by 2.0; Hurricane Sandy Flooding Avenue C 2012, David Shankbone, Flickr, CC by 2.0
By Eric Waisman, Jaunty's Founder
Whoever invented the selfie stick must be a billionaire by now. I recently got back from traveling to Israel for a family wedding and then Greece to spend time with family and friends. It was a great trip. In Greece I spent most of my time in Oia on Santorini. You'd recognize the town from calendar photos even if you don't know the name. The place is stunning with pastel houses nestled into the hillside, overlooking the Mediterranean. Everywhere I went I saw tourists taking selfies like their whole trip revolved around it. Just being in this beautiful place wasn't enough. They wanted to show it off to the folks at home, former co-workers, and old friends they haven't seen since high school.
This desire for external validation and "fame" is all part of what I call the Big Me movement. Big Me is about curating the perception of you on social media. It means playing the role of celebrity and paparazzi. It means broadcasting a very specific side of your life and pretending that the dull moments, disappointments and insecurities don't exist.
We live in the Big Me generation, but we can choose another route instead. I call it the "Under the Radar Route." I love this route. One of the most well-connected and powerful friends I have, taught me a long time ago to come across as the "little guy."
Here are some ideas to play with getting less external validation.
1. Try taking a fun trip without checking-in at the airport or posting any pictures of it. I love exploring new places, even for a weekend. Most of my experiences are not well documented, and those are sometimes the best ones.
2. Help a co-worker, business partner, or loved one with something big, and don't take any credit for it. In fact, give them all the credit.
3. Simplify your life. Less is more. No need to keep up with your neighbors, you only need to keep up with you. When I sold my house and downsized my possessions and the people in my life, I was way happier. I realized I got a lot more out of life once I was surrounded by quality people who taught me things and who I really care about. Also talk less. I talk a lot in a work context, but outside I try and listen more.
4. Cut back on social media. My social media pages suck and that's a good thing. Seriously, they don't represent me at all because I've stopped actively adding to them all the time.
5. Say no to some experiences. If you feel like you are going to some party or event because you have to for someone else, or it'd be good for your reputation...then, umm, don't go every time. Go to the ones that will help you grow and that you will enjoy.
Enjoy the moments you have. Take pictures for nostalgia or to share with loved ones who really do care. Be aware of your motivations. Before you click, ask yourself why you're posting something and what a "like" means to you. If it's too much for other people, try reining in that Big Me mentality and living your life for you.
Have other ideas for putting Big Me in check and weaning ourselves off external validation? I'd love to hear from you.