Are you making changes in your career and work-life? Read this post for tips on how to introduce yourself to people you don’t yet know, even if you don’t like the idea of professional networking.
If you’re a career changer or job seeker, you’ve heard it many times — networking is the fastest way to achieve your career goals.
Simple to say.
Easy to understand.
Not always easy to put into practice.
Prioritize Person-to-Person Connection
When we meet someone new, we have questions in mind, whether or not we are consciously aware of them. Communication experts Lynn Waymon & Anne Baber list three unspoken questions:
- Who are you?
- Why are you here?
- How do we relate each other?
When you first meet someone, keep these fundamental relationship questions in mind. Consider what you might share to address some of these questions and begin to build this new relationship. Don’t forget that you also have questions. What questions are at the back of your mind?
By starting with a focus on person-to-person connection, you expand the scope of beginning conversations. The questions above can help you choose what is appropriate for the situation, the audience, and your style.
One option is to look for areas of shared experience. Maybe the only thing you know you have in common is attending the same meeting or event. That can be your starting point for discovering other shared experiences and interests.
As a career changer, seeking new professional connections, you have an agenda. When you feel a bit nervous, it’s easy to either jump too quickly to your own agenda, or avoid it altogether, because it feels awkward. As we’ll consider next, being prepared can also help.
Create A Schema for Your Professional Introduction
Begin by clarifying your agenda. What are you looking for at this point in your career change? What do you hope to get from this meeting?
If you ask for help, you need to provide enough context so that the other person is clear about what you are asking for. Your professional introduction is a good first step. But this can be a challenge especially when you’re still figuring it out. It helps to have a schema on which to build. Consider preparing a message that you can adapt. Begin with a simple structure.
Here is a “3-part template” suggested by Laura Labovich and Miriam Salpeter their book, 100 Conversations for Career Success.
I work with …
[describe your target audience]
[describe the problem you solve]
This is how …
[describe your impact/results]
You might see this described as an elevator speech. But for some people, viewing it in this way adds unnecessary pressure. Instead, think of clear expression and not an attempt to impress. Think of it as an introduction. Keep it simple. Using a structure and filling in the blanks can help you get started.
Once you’ve written it out, speak it out loud. The purpose of your introduction is to exchange information in a way that makes continuing the conversation easier. Try it out. Notice what happens in the conversation. Adjust as needed.
When you’re changing careers, it’s likely several of your conversations will be with people outside of your industry. Keeping your language understandable by avoiding jargon is particularly important when your goal is to connect rather than create distance.
Individuals are unique and no two conversations are the same. If a template approach doesn’t work for you, consider the style of your message.
In his book How to Get a Job you Love, John Lees suggests working on a two-breath message to introduce yourself. In addition to being short – not more than two sentences – your introduction should be memorable, simple, and upbeat. Consider these qualities as ways of improving your professional introduction.
Of course human communication is a complex two-way process. Successful communication requires us to consider the context and to adapt to each person.
Maybe you dislike the idea of preparing in this way. But taking the time to think through and practice what you might want to say will boost your confidence during career transition. When you feel prepared, you will be more relaxed. You can focus more on putting the other person at ease, and less on concerns about your professional introduction.
Jennifer Bradley helps professionals get unstuck and move forward in their career and work life. She offers individual coaching and consulting, leads workshops, and writes about personal and professional transitions.