Think back to the last time you met someone new. What was the first question they asked you? That’s right: “what do you do for a living?” Every time we hear this question, it’s amazing how much it can still catch us off guard. It’s more often than not an awkward moment.
Why is it always an uncomfortable interaction? For starters, it’s typically with someone we don’t know. It is usually somewhere we’ve never been. Even though we anticipate it, we still feel like we are being put on the spot. And there’s the answer – we are now in the spotlight.
Being stuck in spotlight land can be an uncomfortable place to be. We have to think fast while appearing confident in our response. It’s a very quick exchange of formalities. What if we come off as not sure? What if they think we are weird? What if they sense all our what-ifs? It’s stressful.
Why do we react this way?
• We don’t always identify with what we do- insert career here.
• We are so much more than where we studied, how we make a living, and our societal job titles.
• What goes on in our daily lives takes center stage for how our day is going to play out. We have bills to pay, things to fix, and laundry to do. Then we have to think fast and stay professional. You may say you’re a marketing specialist but in your head, you’re saying you stubbed your toe on the coffee table and it still hurts like hell. It’s all about perspective. Your career is established, however, life stuff always changes with a lot of ups and downs and more laundry.
• Talking to people is hard. Communication is one of the most challenging things we do in a day. Small talk never feels small. It takes work and quick thinking to fill a space but without a real connection. This is why so many people dread networking. But there are ways to make it creative and interesting! Networking is one of the best ways to promote your business. So let’s lose the awkwardness and start making some real connections.
1. Make them laugh
Humour is the great equalizer and the greatest ice breaker. I once met someone at a networking event and he said he was a designer, a taxidermist, and a dog groomer. He said one of those things was not true and it started a great conversation on hobbies. To answer your question – he wasn’t a taxidermist. Thank goodness!
2. Share your passion
When we get to do what we are meant to do in this world, it shows. We come alive when we talk about it. When I say share, I mean to start a conversation but try not to monologue. It’s not a job interview but an interaction to connect on a human level. I was once given advice on how to get through networking events and was told to picture the person as a brick wall. It sounded so impersonal and cold. So instead, I just see them as they are – a person with experiences that I can possibly learn from. That’s a good starting point.
3. Talk about why you got into your field
Some of us chose our careers, some of us fell into careers and others have changed careers to get to their current careers. Whatever direction and path you took, it’s an extremely interesting story to tell. Some of us had an interest in our careers from an early age or followed our parent’s footsteps. I know someone who became a caterer because cooking and entertaining was a big thing in her house growing up. Food was an important part of her life. When she got older, she just knew that was what she needed to do.
4. Showcase your skills
This part is not always easy to do during your first meeting someone. However, it can be part of your follow-up. You can add them to your social networking, or send them a newsletter and a link to your website. This part does not include a hard sell and showing off. The information you share will take care of that. This is why it helps to have a professional and active social media marketing strategy. Post your tips and knowledge and post it often.