Job Search Networking – I will freely admit that in addition to being a reluctant job search networker, I also hated small talk. Slam bam whammy a double curse! When I became determined (OK, desperate) to learn how to do networking in ways that felt comfortable for me, I started interviewing people who were master networkers. That research is how I learned all the networking secrets I love to share. Since that strategy worked so well to learn how to network, I decided to take the same approach to learn how to do small talk. I didn’t expect to learn to like small talk, just to learn some ways to sound as though I liked it. As I learned some techniques that actually worked, I started to like small talk in spite of myself!
Let me share some of what I learned, just in case you hate small talk, too!
First I had to learn and then accept there is a purpose to small talk. It gives you and the other person a chance to find something that you have in common. That is the beginning of building a relationship. And you’ll want to be a master of creating a relationship quickly since they are the foundation of your job search networking success. So here are some quick tips to make small talk easier for those of us who kinda hate it and/or don’t do it particularly well.
• Make your first remarks quite neutral and non-threatening. Remember, the purpose of opening remarks is to let people process the sub-text that says you like them.
• Say something relevant to the situation. You may build agreement right away. For example, you may say “Beautiful place for this event. Isn’t it?” This would encourage your conversational partner to start agreeing with you from the first moment. This is good!
• Say something pleasant, complimentary or empathetic because your first sentence is 100% of their experience of you at that point. If your first comments are boastful, complaining, negative or sarcastic (no matter how witty or intelligent). That will be their impression of you, and it will be a difficult task to change that impression.
• You will find that acknowledging them for something they have done is a powerful way to melt the ice.
• Say something that is easy to agree with. This provides sub-text that says “we agree, we’re alike, we have something in common. We can now move on to more meaningful conversation.”
• Save your jokes, strong opinions, clever remarks for when you know the person better. The sub-text here says “look at me; appreciate me.”
• You want your sub-text to say “I see you and I appreciate you.” Keep that thought in your head and it is conveyed easily in your small talk.