Let's be honest: introducing yourself to a total stranger and having a memorable, fulfilling conversation right away seems far-fetched—but what if it doesn’t have to be? Imagine being able to not only overcome the awkward small talk of a first-time interaction, but also turn it into a moment that is valuable and worthwhile for both parties.
We’ve put together some key tips on how to better prepare yourself for the next time somebody strikes you with the question, “So, what do you do?”
Switch it up: In most settings where you’re meeting new people, it’s common practice to talk about work right away. Knowing this, come prepared with something, anything, better than, “So, what do you do?” Ask them why they do what they do or what their favorite project is currently. Create the opportunity to see a side of somebody that goes beyond a general field of work.
Be human: Maybe you’re at an event and found the perfect person to network with. Do a little background research by quickly checking their LinkedIn profile or listen carefully to them speak. You’re bound to find something you have in common. All of a sudden you’re the closest thing they have to a new friend at this event.
Make big talk, not small talk: Introduce your line of work in a way that leads to a question prompting an even bigger idea. For example, I could say something like, “I connect clients with speaking opportunities to grow their thought leadership. If you had to give a Ted Talk, what would your topic be?” People love to talk about themselves, just give them the chance.
Add more depth to your role: Your title alone is the least interesting thing about your job. Next time you’re prompted to talk about work, mention what you love about your job or a project you’re working on. Energy is contagious. If you’re excited, they’ll get excited not only because what you’re working on is awesome, but because you’re not talking about the weather.
Keep in touch: Did you pay attention to what your new friend said? Great! Now follow up. People love to be remembered. Similar to when you write a thank you note after an interview, leave the conversation remembering something that stood out to you and include it in your follow-up note. People are used to forgetting the details of their interactions the moment they’re over. You’ll stand out by showing you were paying attention.