How To Actually Enjoy Networking Events

Hate Networking Events? You’re Not Alone

Do you have to drag yourself to networking events? Do you find yourself awkwardly nursing a drink or staking out the food table, wishing you were somewhere else? But you force yourself to stay because managing these events well is crucial to get hired or build your business.

Fortunately, there are some high-quality resources available to help you build your skills. Just one of these is Debra Fine’s “The Fine Art of Small Talk,” available both as a book and a recording.

Using her advice, you can enjoy networking events. Really.  Here are a few samples of her advice.


Prepare For Networking Events

Brainstorm before networking events to come up with three or more topics you can use to initiate conversation or to pick things up when conversation drags. Topics might include films and TV shows, current events, and happenings in your community.

How to Get The Other Person Talking

Be sure to go after more information, digging deeper into what people tell you. These phrases can help to develop memorable conversations:

  • Tell me more.
  • How did that happen?
  • What led you to do that?
  • Is that something I can do?

Networking Event Key: Use open-ended questions

Open-ended questions like these are more likely to get people talking.
What made you move to Kenilworth?
How did you get started into your current job?
What do you see as the biggest obstacles to success in your industry?

Closed questions get short answers.

Is your company located in Winnetka?
Do you live here in Highland Park?
Do you read the Wall Street Journal?
What’s your sign?

Not only are closed questions unlikely to develop good conversations, but asking too many closed questions can make the other person feel uncomfortable. They might even feel interrogated and wonder if you’re with the FBI.

Networking Event Strategy: Use Free Information 

We often can get what she calls “free information” from others through their appearance, words, and behavior. Grab onto this free information and use it to open up great conversations.

1) Words 

Many times, people tell us things that provide an opening to find out about them:

  • When we moved to Winnetka …
  • When I left my position at Chicago Faucet in Des Plaines …
  • Because I grew up on Chicago’s south side, I know …

Ask questions about this free information to develop conversations:

  • What made you move to Winnetka?
  • What do you think of the corporate culture at Chicago Faucet?
  •  Did you enjoy living on the south side?

Want to talk to us about your career advancement? 


2) Appearance

If you’re living in cold-winter places like Chicago or Milwaukee and you run across someone with a suntan in the middle of January, chances are they’ve taken a trip somewhere interesting—or at least know of a good tanning facility. Ask them about it.

At a small networking event, a man had a cast on his leg. When someone asked what happened, he said it was a skiing accident. This helped everyone in the room to get to know him better and generated some good-natured ribbing that got everyone laughing.

You might ask a woman wearing a distinctive piece of jewelry about where it came from and how she happened to find it.

3) Behavior–When you encounter a woman whose accent isn’t local, you might ask why she came to the United States or what part of the country she is from.

You might ask why she moved to the US

You might ask a woman who is left handed what issues come up with being a lefty.
If you see a man wearing a Chicago Cubs tie or lapel pin, you might ask about the first Cubs game he attended or who is his favorite Chicago player.

4) Occasion/Location-Questions about the event you’re or the spot of your encounter.

At a seminar: What led you to sign up for this seminar?
At an association meeting: How did you come to choose this field?
At a political rally: What led you to support this candidate?
At Joe’s birthday party: How do you know Joe?


At Networking Events: Don’t Create Awkwardness
Ms. Fine also advises keeping questions with acquaintances more general to avoid blundering into uncomfortable situations.

If you see John once or twice a year, don’t ask him, “How is that great job at Grainger in Lake Forest going?” He may have been demoted or fired since you last saw him. Instead, ask him, “How’s work going?” That way, he can tell you whatever he wants.

Similarly, don’t ask Sally, “How’s that gorgeous husband of yours?” Maybe he left her. You’re just an acquaintance. She doesn’t want to discuss her marital trauma with you. So instead, ask her something like, “What’s new with the family?” Again, this gives Sally the chance to share whatever she wants, without having to delve into painful issues.

Interested in Debra Fine’s book? 

Develop Your Networking Event Skills

I encourage you to equip yourself with these powerful tools Ms. Fine discusses. They can turn awful networking events into enjoyable ones and help you create relationships that can last for years. Getting hired, staying employed, getting new business, and being promoted are all about chemistry.

If you’re ready to move up or go in another direction in your career, don’t waste another day. Let’s talk. Call 847-673-0339 or send us a note.  — Steve Frederick and Jack Chapman 



Job Interview Tip: How to Turn Rejection To Opportunity

That Job interview was so promising. Then you get the rejection note.

You had great rapport. The conversation was stimulating. You were excited. You were as good as hired. And then they said no?

What now?


Then you got that rejection note….

Of course, it’s terribly disappointing. You might be tempted to get mad and scream at the employer (in the privacy of your home, of course).

Vent if you must, but then, get smart.

One of the three things that win job interviews is good human relations (the other two are enthusiasm and clear communications). Use your good human relations to your advantage to turn this situation around.


Job Interview Success and Human Relations

Since empathy is a key to good human relations, think about what’s going on with the boss. You had good rapport. She liked you and saw you as a good candidate. But apparently, someone she liked better came along. Or she was forced to hire her boss’s nephew. Or it may have been a toss-up between you and another candidate. Chances are, she feels awful about having to reject you.

Overcome the awkwardness after the job interview

Since she rejected you, there is awkwardness. It’s like when you go on a date and tell the person you don’t want to go out with him/her again. It’s hard to face them. If you see them on the street or in an elevator, it would be awkward. There’s been a breakdown in the relationship.

Smart job hunters know that it’s important to address and heal this awkwardness. How do you do that?

Send a letter of appreciation

As you know, the good old-fashioned thank you note is much appreciated, but a very small percentage of candidates send one. This is a big mistake. Thank you notes give you the chance to stand out from the crowd. Let the boss know that you appreciate that she took time out of her day to meet with you. Hopefully, you did that already.

All right, but you’ve already been rejected, so what now? Send a note of appreciation. Let her know that you understand that she picked the person that seemed best for the job. Give your best wishes both to her and to the candidate who got the job.

As I’ve said, few people bother to send a thank you note after the interview. Almost no one thanks the boss after being rejected. If you do, you will probably be the only one.

Now, take this further.

Contact the boss and ask if you might add him to your network. Not just your LinkedIn network. Many of us have thousands of LinkedIn connections, including people from other continents who we will never meet in this lifetime. We add people, and they just sit there in our list of connections and rot.

Try to make them part of your real network, and stay in touch.

Ask if you might meet the boss for networking

If he’s willing, draw on the boss’s knowledge of what’s going on in his company, in the industry, with vendors, and their customers. He may well be able to refer you to others in his company or to people he knows in other companies. The boss can give a boost to your efforts to build your visibility and credibility and meet the people who can hire you.

Remember that in the job hunt, you are planting seeds when you make connections. You never know when they may sprout.

Ask if you can meet with the boss on a networking basis

Sometimes, the results are quick. The candidate who seemed like the best person for the job doesn’t work out. One client from Winnetka got hired within weeks of being rejected. The candidate they hired received another offer a month after starting the new job. When he abruptly quit, the boss called our client.

Other times, the seed may sprout many months or years later—if you keep in touch. A client from Glenview stayed in touch with an executive with whom he’d had good rapport in an interview and got hired three years later.

It’s a small world. You never know when someone you interview with will resurface. Make sure you make the most of each and every contact.

Contact us about our job interview coaching. We’ll help you get in the driver’s seat in your next interview.