One of the most common questions I get from students who are preparing for career fairs or on-campus employer presentations is about interacting with employers. Many ask,”How do I approach this employer?” or “What am I going to say to this person?”
Managing initial face-to-face introductions is a skill you’ll use in any situation where you’re meeting someone for the first time — not just when you’re meeting a potential employer. There are a few things you can do to make the introduction go smoothly and to be memorable.
Tell a story and be conversational. Don’t just launch into a list of your accomplishments or what you want from whomever you’re meeting, but provide some detail about your past. How did you get to where you are now and what sparked your interest in your industry or your passion? Where did you grow up? How did you end up at your university? Weave your story into your introduction.
Don’t be afraid to be a bit vulnerable by sharing struggles, challenges or mistakes you’ve made in the past. You’ll seem more relaxed, more confident and more human. Plus, you may uncover commonalities between your experiences and those of others.
Pause and Listen
When we’re nervous we tend to rush our words. In doing so, we spill out our introduction and risk overwhelming others. Remember to breathe! State your name and pause for the other person to respond. Some people will take the lead, asking you questions, taking some of the pressure off you to lead the conversation. If you rush into a rehearsed speech you take away the opportunity for this person to interject with questions.
Sometimes we get nervous and anxious and forget that asking questions and listening to the responses are equally, if not more, important than talking ourselves. Make a conscious reminder to stay calm, allow for natural breaks in the conversation and pepper your conversation with good questions. Then make sure to pay attention to what is being said in response. Just like you want to tell your story, you want to draw that story out of others.
The Standard Tips Still Apply
There’s tons out there about meeting new people and networking and a lot of it is good advice: repeat and remember other people’s names, be sure to follow-up and follow through with any promises you made, and be courteous of that person’s time.
Kelly is a career advisor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she assists undergraduate business students with all aspects of their career development. Connect with Kelly on Twitter, her blog, LinkedIn or BrazenCareerist.