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 Byron Evora, Jaunty Graduate
I work in the video game industry as a Sound Designer. It's a pretty awesome job, but big changes in my life made me want to increase my social agility.
I'm an introvert and while I've always seen myself as moderately social, I used to feel a tinge of anxiety before putting myself out there. It wasn't really an issue until last year when I decided to start my own game audio company. Prior to this, handling a few conferences or networking events a year was easy, and even fun - I was a full-time employee at a company and was only interested in making friends and increasing my contacts list. When I split off on my own, the amount of these events increased exponentially. I was now searching for clients, and something tangible was now at stake.
The golden apple of these conferences happens right here in San Francisco, every March. It's called The Game Developers Conference, or GDC.
It's a funny little secret among developers that while the workshops are incredibly informative, they're not actually the real conference. The friendship making, deals, and networking actually happen off-site, during meet-ups, mixers, and of course, the parties.
Imagine putting hundreds of introverts (mostly male) into a room. Some are looking for their next job, others are trying to break into the industry, and a few are there to catch up with old friends. The energy in the party is awkward and stagnant. Nobody's talking except for the circles of old friends, and those more socially comfortable are dominating the room. The rest are wallflowers, shrinking into themselves. In a couple hours, though, the party's jumping.
How? With booze... Copious amounts of booze (among other things - it is SF, and a party, after all). From my experience, GDC is a week of getting hammered until late into the night and making new friends, many of whom don't remember one another the next day. The more intimate networking events throughout the year are similar.
When I signed up for Jaunty, I told Eric I was primarily interested in the six-week class to make connecting with potential clients faster and easier. But that was only half the story. It was also for my health. For at least one night, I'll always tear up the city with my friends at GDC, but throughout rest of the year, this was getting both awfully expensive, and severely unhealthy.
I was four weeks into the course when GDC happened in 2015.
During a party, I walked up to a group of five complete strangers and introduced myself. They were polite, but I could see them starting to armor up for the typically weird small talk followed by the awkward handshake and exchange of business cards. But I didn't talk about work, at least not yet... I asked them what they'd been up to that day and took the conversation to some place fun. Nobody had a single drink yet, but we were having a great time.
When it was time for them to meet up with friends at another party, I had nursed a single drink and none of the group had more than three. One of them remarked that we're normally trashed at this point in the night. I was about to initiate the business card thing, but thought we'd built such rapport, why mar the experience by bringing it back to the subject of work? There'd be plenty of other nights like this and maybe I'd run into them again.
But then, they asked me to go with them. I had no invitation and no badge, but they knew the people throwing it. It wouldn't be a problem at all.
That entire night, I had two drinks and didn't ask for a single business card - they just offered them to me. Further, one of the guys was working on an amazing project (one of my dream gigs) and told me to call him the following week. That phone call included a project director who was interested in possibly using my company to help out on their game. Next came an onsite lunch to meet the team, and finally an offer to bid on the work right away. By then I had finished the Jaunty course and was completely at ease meeting new groups of people, and making them feel at ease without a single beer.
I got the gig.
By Fayette Fox, Jaunty's Writer and Community Manager
"Before I felt bad about saying no to people," says Jaunty graduate Sinan Mouline. "Now I feel more comfortable doing it. Also I can ask for what I want. If the other person can do it, great. If not, okay."
Born and raised in Morocco, Sinan went to college in France. These days he's a software engineer in San Francisco.
Sinan was recently invited to a big annual dinner. But he already had plans that night. In the past he would have tried to change his existing plans for fear of offending his friends. Thanks to his Jaunty social intelligence skills and assertiveness training, he did something else instead.
"I simply said, 'Hey, thank you for the invite, but I have a prior commitment. Let's hang out soon." His friend said okay and it wasn't a big deal.
Sinan is big on self-improvement and after going to a number of Meetups, realized he never instigated conversations. In other aspects of life he rarely approached others.
"I didn't feel like interrupting people and asking something."
He wanted to have the choice, to be able to talk to people for business or socially if he wanted to.
Sinan heard about Jaunty through Meetup and hoped it might help. He enjoyed the free workshop. He took advantage of a discounted one-on-one session with Eric where they talked about the areas he wanted to work on, like networking and his social life.
Sinan says, Jaunty's six-week course was, "really helpful. Every class had a lot of content." He appreciated the homework and says "it kept us involved" outside of class. Some of his classmates met up to do homework together, approaching strangers and trying out different techniques. "It helped us stay motivated and reach our goals week after week." Now, about two months after the class ended, Sinan still meets up with some of them.
Professionally, things are going well for Sinan since he's been working on his assertiveness. "I remember Eric saying it was important to speak louder, look people in the eye, and not be afraid to say what we think. Since then I've been getting a lot more responsibilities."
These days he finds it much easier to go to networking events and actually talk to people. If he's interested in them, he can do a contact exchange. "It's all quite easy with the framework from Jaunty. You just follow the steps."
Sinan says, the class, "also helped me understand myself better. I know that as much as I like interacting with people and being social, I need to have time to myself to recharge. For example, I know it's hard for me to go from social gathering to social gathering, to social gathering. So now I just avoid it. Now I say to my friends, 'Hey I need to go home and recharge. I'll meet up with you later.' Otherwise I'm not mentally present with them." Before he'd just keep on going, even if he was too tired and drained. "Now I know my needs."
He's been thinking a lot about his current and past friendships. "I think [Jaunty's Social Trainer] Craig mentioned there are two types of friends: The friends you choose and the friends you just end up being friends with. Now I'm more careful about that. I don't feel as bad setting boundaries and trying to have more friends of choice, rather than friends of convenience. I'm not necessarily going to turn my back on my friends of convenience, but I'm spending more time with my friends of choice. That means I spend more time with people I genuinely like."
By Chinh Huynh, Jaunty graduate
"Hey Brian, do you have a second?"
Brian continued looking at the screen, deep in thought.
"Is this going to be quick?"
"Yes. I'd like to let you know that I won't be able to continue working on your project. Thank you for the opportunities that you gave me."
I got Brian's attention. As he was processing the news, I sat there in silence, calm and composed. A promising collaboration went bad. When Brian convinced me to help with the project two months ago, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to work with a senior member in the organization. Toward the end, Brian seemed distracted and things got dragged out for no good reason. After trying everything I could with no progress for a week, I decided to call it quits.
Brian thanked me and shook my hand. He didn't ask me why, I didn't feel like I need to justify myself either. Did Brian lose any sleep over this? I don't know, but that's beside the point. It's Brian's feelings, he will take care of it. As for me, I made a promise in my Jaunty class to live an assertive life, and I need to hold myself responsible for it.
Having options is powerful. Knowing that you have the ability to walk away from a bad situation will give you peace of mind. While everyone knows to look for a competing offer when searching for a new job, they often fail to apply the same principle in the most important aspects of their life: friendships and relationships.
A friend of mine is not happy. She thinks she sacrifices too much and her boyfriend does not reciprocate.
"So leave him," I said.
"That's what I'll do, when I know what I want. I don't know what I want".
I feel for her. I was in a similar situation before. As poetic as it sounds, I learned from Jaunty that I don't need to sacrifice to be in a healthy relationship. What I need to do is talk to a lot of people, invest in the ones that fit in my life and let go of the rest. As I made new friends that treat me well, it became easier to cut loose of broken relationships. When you have the ability to create an abundant social life, you're no longer tied to a relationship that "has to work". You no longer need to sacrifice for love.
People come to Jaunty for various reasons. For me, assertiveness and finding quality people are the key takeaways from Jaunty's six-week program. A month after graduation I made two new friends that I greatly enjoy spending my time with. I stopped interacting with negative people. I no longer say yes when I want to say no. I lost a few friends over this but that's okay because I can make new friends who respect my decisions.
I still feel anxiety when talking to new people. That little churn in my stomach before making an approach hasn't gone away yet. Putting myself out there is hard. It always has been. What kept me going is the Jaunty alumni network that pushes me to continue advancing my social skills even after the class is over. Every ending is a new beginning and my social life has just begun.
"Today I will live a social and assertive life."
Signed Chinh. Witnessed by Jaunty. April 7, 2015.
By Fayette Fox, Jaunty's Writer and Community Manager
"Public speaking used to make me really nervous," Jaunty graduate Ashmi Pathela says. She was good at sounding confident, but had to work to hide her nervousness during any presentation.
Ashmi's first language is Japanese, and though she moved from Japan to the States when she was only five, she always felt pressure to speak well and blend in with her peers. Don't stumble over your words. Whether a product of her culture or just her personality, that voice in her head was always getting in the way.
"This year, I've been focusing on personal development," Ashmi says. As a Senior Marketing Manager at an activities and events software company, she felt the best way to develop her leadership skills was to improve her social intelligence. She attended a free Jaunty workshop and saw the six-week course as a great way to build deeper connections with peers, both personally and professionally.
"Approaching strangers is easy for me if it's at an event, like a party or for networking. But approaching someone on the street in broad daylight without having a reason is super challenging." During the course, Ashmi had lots of opportunities to practice overcoming those initial hesitations, and a funny thing happened. When she started approaching and introducing herself to new people, she noticed more people started approaching her too. Maybe she was holding herself differently. Or perhaps she was being more present and noticing more people around her. Either way, the world got a little smaller once she got out of her own head.
Ashmi especially enjoyed Jaunty's segment on humor. Half Japanese and half Indian, Ashmi says, "Japanese people don't use sarcasm or dry humor that freely, including my close family members. Since I grew up without it, it was always hard for me to pick up."
Jaunty's class on humor breaks down different elements of high status humor and explains the science behind it. Ashmi loved trying it out and seeing it work. Now, she looks for ways to be more playful in her daily life, especially through language. Ashmi feels humor is a wonderful way to build rapport with people and "laugh along with the world."
And how about public speaking? At a recent annual off-site, Ashmi presented in front of her entire company. Instead of focusing on her nerves, she thought about the value she was delivering to her colleagues. She used many of her Jaunty skills like slowing down, remembering to pause, and projecting - and it was the most confident she's ever been. "It was the first time I didn't have to hide any nervousness, because I felt confident inside." Afterwards, people came up and complimented her on her speech.
Ashmi feels anyone can benefit from Jaunty. "It's not often that people make the time or effort to invest in themselves. Jaunty can really impact your personal interactions, confidence level, and how you present yourself to the world. I've had so many more meaningful connections by learning how to slow down and really listen." Indeed, Ashmi feels her new-found social intelligence is helping her "build closer relationships with others by living a more present life."
By Fayette Fox, Jaunty's Writer and Community Manager
"I want to take my life to the next level," Daniel Evan Lee told Eric, after the free Jaunty workshop. "I feel like I'm plateauing." After college, he'd gotten a sales job at a start-up. Three years later he kept wondering if there was a better opportunity out there, somewhere that would be a better fit, where he could make more money.
Working in sales, he felt his social intelligence and relationship skills were directly related to the deals he could close. He thought, "If I can advance my awareness and interactions with others," then maybe he could up his whole game.
He signed up for Jaunty's six-week course with the intention of improving his business life and being ready when his big moment came.
"I'm glad I got to take a class with a range of people and not just business people." In college, Daniel pitched multiple business ideas that were all shot down by his peers and executives. He got comfortable with rejection and learning to manage social anxiety. At Jaunty, he says, "One of the bigger skills I've learned is how to make other people feel more comfortable when they're uncomfortable."
This past fall, six months after taking the course, Daniel was "killing it" at work. He felt confident and interviewed for jobs at three companies in different industries.
"There was this one I really wanted," Daniel says. "I put my all into it." He recalls the extreme disappointment when he wasn't hired.
Then, three weeks into the New Year, a direct competitor reached out to him. His big moment had come. He met up for a beer with the competitor's CEO.
"This guy made millions of dollars with his old company. He's very techie and aggressive. What I chose to wear that day was planned and precise. I've noticed when I wear a baseball hat people pre-judge me." So he wore his baseball hat. "He looks me up and down, kind of hesitant. I can feel it. I said, 'Dude, let's keep it transparent. Why did you reach out to me?'" They went right into the opportunity.
"I was that person they were looking for." Daniel didn't have to prove anything to them. "I felt like I was on fire. I was in the zone." Daniel kept a poker face and stayed focused on his moment even after the CEO offered him a job with a salary and commission that he couldn't refuse.
Thanks to Jaunty, Daniel says, "I noticed his body language, the speed of his delivery of words. It happened so fast but so slow. I vividly remember what's going on." Daniel feels all his social intelligence work went into that moment. Feeling high status and confident, he knew how to present himself.
Daniel really believes in his new company and feels supported in his new job.
"Twelve months ago I couldn't tell you that I'd be feeling this way about my life. That feeling of being excited and waking up before your alarm is amazing." He used to commute from the City to Berkeley every day and now that work is ten minutes away, he has an extra ten hours a week of free time. He enjoys going to the gym on his way home. He's looking forward to buying a house. "I can be my own true Jaunty and have fun with life."
"Jaunty has been incredible," Daniel says. "It gave me skills to lead a conversation, to guide the entire feeling of a conversation to where I'd like it to go. It's helped me slow down my life. I'm way quicker on my feet with jokes. We all have opportunities. Now I feel like I'm getting better and picking the best ones."
By Jaunty Staff Writer and Sunny Basra, Jaunty graduate
Sunny Basra has always been a bubbly person. A constant center of social gravity, she's your prototypical, natural extrovert. Originally from the Central Valley, she went on to study communication in college and now works for PepsiCo. "I'm in sales," she explains. "My job is to meet new people."
While she's always felt socially "above average," in early 2014 she wanted to add new depth to her conversation skills. This was right after she moved to San Francisco, where she found herself in social environments where she knew no one. She wanted to get past the shallow conversations that are standard fare at parties, those that feel "very surface, almost
like an interview."
Sunny found out about Jaunty and was intrigued by the free workshop. "I've always been really interested in why people behave the way they do. Any opportunity to get to learn more about this is like winning the lottery for me." After being impressed by the quality of the workshop, she signed up for Jaunty's six-week course.
While her college communication classes were "theoretical and intellectual," Jaunty's course was experience-based, with real-time feedback from the instructors—no textbooks needed.
Interestingly, when she told her colleagues, family and friends she was taking a social intelligence class, they said, "Why would you need that?" Sunny's confident and sociable demeanor had always disguised the anxiety she'd felt at times. "That's why people were so surprised... Whether you think you have social anxiety or not, everyone has some social anxiety. Some people feel a little more nervous when they're talking to new people. Other people feel more nervous with public speaking. Jaunty gave me the formula for how to communicate with others," Sunny says. "Now whatever social situation I'm in, I know I'm going to be generally successful using this formula."
With the new conversational skills she learned in the course, she no longer feels the jitters that used to come with the challenging new client cases. Now, when encountering a new client, she has an added edge in dealing with them. "My job is to build relationships over time. With cold reading and threading, I can dig deeper much quicker than before."
These skills and lessons have also been helpful in her new role as a manager. As she coaches her employees on selling strategies, she makes sure to impart key nuggets from the class. For example, she teaches them the difference between being assertive and aggressive. "It's all about your intention and your approach," she explains.
Whether at work, or a small dinner party, Jaunty's lessons have been guiding and influencing Sunny's life in subtle but impactful ways. As Sunny's journey shows, even the socially gifted can benefit from some good old fashioned education.