Networking can feel a bit like going to the dentist: You know it's important to your overall career health, but it can be so painful. So it’s understandable that you might want to take a no-nonsense approach to these events. Your time is in short supply, and really, we’d all rather spend whatever’s leftover from a
60-plus hour workweek at happy hour with friends, not chatting it up with random strangers. Yet, as tempting as it might be to get straight to the point with your laser-focused career questions, that tactic might not be serving you well in the long run.
“Leading in with ‘So, what do you do?’ tends to be a rapport breaker,” says Shan White, owner of Women’s Peak Performance Coaching
. “When you’re asked what you do off the bat, you get the sense that the person is deciding whether you’re worthy of being schmoozed or not.”
As White puts it, building camaraderie on a personal level proves you’re someone whom they should get to know professionally, as well. Instead of trying to collect as many business cards as possible, aim to build a connection first — even if it’s only with a handful of people.
“People do business with those they know, like, and trust,” says White. “So as you walk into the event, remind yourself that your purpose is to be known, liked, and eventually, trusted.”
To help establish that trust (and make yourself feel more comfortable overall with the process), we asked some career coaches to share their top advice for navigating networking events, including some icebreakers (that cursed corporate term) to ensure the start of your conversations feels less contrived.