Posted: October 1st, 2013
They say talk is cheap. Perhaps for some, but not for law students who have a boat-load of networking events filling up their social calendar. These students are playing it smart and taking advantage of the many social and networking event opportunities our office is offering in the coming months. All throughout the Fall you can:
- Learn from students on how they landed their summer job
- Hear great advice and stories from local practicing attorneys
- Receive countless wisdom with fellow Wake Forest alumni
You’ll probably want to brush up on your networking skills… again?
Can you ever get enough networking advice?
Of course not!
When it comes to mingling, socializing, and meeting new people, small talk can be a big problem. You want to be friendly and polite, but you just can’t think of a thing to say. Mastering those ice-breakers could mean the start of a lifelong connection, vital to your career. But how do you start, what do you say, and how do you say it – what are the tricks of the trade?
Gretchin Rubin, from the Happiness Project, has highlighted some strategies to try when your mind is a blank:
1. Comment on a topic common to both of you at the moment: the food, the room, the occasion, the weather (yes, talking about the weather is a cliché, but it works). “How do you know our host?” “What brings you to this event?” But keep it on the positive side! Unless you can be hilariously funny, the first time you come in contact with a person isn’t a good time to complain.
2. Comment on a topic of general interest. A friend scans Google News right before he goes anywhere where he needs to make small talk, so he can say, “Did you hear that Jeff Bezos is buying The Washington Post?” or whatever.
3. Ask a question that people can answer as they please. My favorite question is: “What’s keeping you busy these days?” It’s useful because it allows people to choose their focus (work, volunteer, family, hobby) — preferable to the inevitable question (well, inevitable at least in New York City): “What do you do?”
A variant: “What are you working on these days?” This is an especially useful dodge if you ought to know what the person does for a living, but can’t remember.
4. Ask open questions that can’t be answered with a single word.
5. If you do ask a question that can be answered in a single word, instead of just supplying your own information in response, ask a follow-up question. For example, if you ask, “Where are you from?” or “What areas of law to you practice?” some interesting follow-up questions might be, “What would your life be like if you still lived there?”, “What made you move here?” or “What made you decide to choose that practice area?”
6. Ask getting-to-know-you questions. “What newspapers and magazines do you subscribe to? What internet sites do you visit regularly?” These questions often reveal a hidden passion, which can make for great conversation.
7. React to what a person says in the spirit in which that that comment was offered. If he makes a joke, even if it’s not very funny, try to laugh. If she offers some surprising information (“Did you know that the Harry Potter series have sold more than 450 million copies?”), react with surprise.
8. Follow someone’s conversational lead. If someone obviously drops in a reference to a subject, pick up on that thread.
9. Along the same lines, counter-intuitively, don’t try to talk about your favorite topic, because you’ll be tempted to talk too much.
So what will it be? Table Talk? Speed Networking? A Law Alumni program? Take your pick or pick them all and try out these new found tips and tricks. You’re in school to practice what you’ve learned from your books, but you are also in school to practice the networking skills that will keep you climbing to the top of your career ladder. There is no one without the other.