This post originally appeared on The Jane Dough.
Have you ever walked into a networking event, looked around the room, and felt like turning around and walking right back out again?
You think, “Ugh. People are annoying.” Or “How does everyone already know everyone?” Or “I hate this. I’m so uncomfortable.” Or, “Please don’t notice how awkward I feel.”
Networking can often feel like a four-letter word. You want it to be great and easy, and yet there’s not enough wine in the universe. You are soooo not alone. It happens!
But the good news is there are a few tricks of the trade that may prove useful for you, so all hope is not lost. When I work with my clients who want to get unstuck and need to network in order to find that next great job, we focus on a few simple things to help strike up a conversation:
1. Notice Other People’s Jewelry
Do you love it when women come up to you and compliment you on your accessories? (You do! Admit it!) One easy way to slide into a conversation (or start one up) is to walk up to someone and compliment them on their jewelry. It’s an easy conversation starter, and unless they are completely socially inept the conversation will go something like this.
You: “I love your necklace! It’s beautiful. Where did you get it?”
Them: “Oh, thank you! I got it at the Awesome Necklace store. Have you heard of it?”
You: “No, I haven’t, but I must check it out.”
Them: “You should, and what brings you here tonight?”
2. Notice Other People’s Shoes and Hair
Most women (and some men) make certain statements in their choice of hair style or footwear.When the statement is bold, they especially want you to notice it, and you win points by doing so. It’s the same idea as complimenting accessories, so go crazy!
3. Comment on the Group and How Fun They Are
If you see people bunched into small groups, pick one that looks friendly and walk up to them and say “You guys looked like you were having the most fun, so I had to come over and say hello!”
Everyone loves to feel like they are popular and fun, and by complimenting the group they will often invite you in to join them. Someone will rally to your opener and say something like “What brings you here tonight?” and you are off to the races!
Once you leave the event do not forget to follow up! It sounds obvious because it is, but since most of us throw business cards into our bags and then into the trash when we empty our bags months later, we’ve got to find a better system.
One approach: Pick two or three people and follow up with them. You would be amazed by who people know, and when you are job searching (or thinking about job searching), if you follow up enough times with just a few people, you will come to be the beneficiary of the Kevin Bacon effect.
This system is based on the best movie science: Someone in your network is connected to someone who knows someone who is hiring in the career field or organization you want to join. It’s like six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon, but better, because there is usually an awesome job (and potential salary increase?) in it for you!
So slap on your statement necklace and get out there. Good luck!
Christie Mims is the Radical Fairy Godmother to the Woman Trapped in Her Suit, specializing in helping you get UNstuck in your career. Sign up for her free job UNstuck kit here, and let her wave her magic fairy dust all over you! And if you want more, hang out with her on Twitter or Facebook!