The best 4 things to say when networking right now

Networking is one of the easiest ways to help advance your career during the holiday season. Even though networking might look a little different this year — Is your office party turning into a socially distant hang out at a park? Are you commenting on career advice in a private Facebook group? Or perhaps Zoom is the only way to share well wishes with your partner companies this year? — it is still going to be a prevalent way to make connections during a time when people are craving more regular social interaction. Use this time to your advantage to reach out to people you admire to ask for advice or your coworker who knows that guy in the marketing department at that cable network with a few open positions you’ve been eyeing.

The best part about holiday networking? It’s relaxed. People are in the mind to party, the fiscal year is wrapping up, and most people will have a couple of extra days off to celebrate. Everyone is eating, drinking, and relaxing, so it is a whole lot easier to start a conversation. Don’t have a lot of conversation starters up your sleeve? That’s alright, we’ve got you covered with _ ideal things to say when networking with new people.

1. How has your company or brand pivoted over the past year to meet the demands of your audience?

If you aren’t in the throes of the application process with their brand, ask your acquaintance about how they’ve been handling 2020. Many companies have had to redirect their campaigns, change the way they invested money to keep their staff intact, pivot to entirely different services and methods entirely, and have kept up with insane demands over the past year. It’s ok to level with someone about that. The way they respond will tell you a lot about your contact themselves, as well as how their work environment handles national crises. Plus, you’ll form a bond over a widely shared circumstance, triggering a sense of camaraderie.

Our advice would be not to stay on the topic of “2020” for too long, as the subject tends to spiral into unsavory places.

2. What challenges do you recognize for professionals in our industry?

This question is a game-changer on a few different levels. For one, you are addressing your shared industry to enforce your (assumed) rapport. Then, you’re taking interest in not only their work but their individual stressors. This type of conversation can lead to collaboration to help fight a shared challenge in the industry together. It can also identify some of your characteristics and skills that could lend themselves to solving your contact’s challenges, further solidifying your connection and the possibility for future work, job possibilities, and referrals.

This is also recognized as a tactful approach to the “How have you REALLY been?” question, without coming off as too inquisitive or pushy.

3. What was the circumstance or moment that made you realize you wanted to pursue what you do?

This type of question often leads to a pretty stellar, detailed story about how your networking contact got to where they are. You get to glimpse their nostalgic side and find out what makes them love the company they work for or the work that they do. You also get the opportunity to be inspired by their story or invest in something that inspired them. This question is another feel-good staple that could get you far in your holiday networking ventures.

4. Tell a standout story.

To be fair, this isn’t always something that can be facilitated during a networking event. But during the holidays, it’s a little easier to interject with funny or memorable anecdotes during a conversation. If you’re worried that something organic won’t necessarily come up, come with a few ideas in your back pocket. Perhaps you and someone else at the event have a cool memory together? Perhaps shenanigans ensued at last year’s party? This allows the connection you’re speaking with to get a break from thinking about answers to be dazzled by your personality. That will make a lasting impression.

If you find that you have to start the interaction with small talk, make sure it makes an impact. Stray from questions that only require yes, no, or one-word answers, and maintain eye contact often to encourage them and remind them that you are paying attention. Whether you’re having a casual conversation with an acquaintance, friend, or family friend, or you’ve arranged a Skype or Zoom call over coffee with someone you’d like to learn from, these are all valued options to enriching your career relationships over the holidays.