Bring your social skills back to IRL networking

Bring your social skills back to IRL networking

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Everyone born after 1975 has grown up gaming. And everyone born after 1990 has grown up online. Between these two points of fact, many young American adults have forgotten how to be social. As in IRL. (Or maybe it’s just everyone I know?)  Sure, we’ll “friend” each other on Facebook, play cooperatively in Farmville, IM and text like mad – but when it comes to real life interaction many adults in their early thirties, or just on the outskirts, seem to have developed various degrees of social anxiety.

We once knew how to exist in the real world. We had play dates and pool parties and the whole deal as kids. But the online world made connecting so much easier, and new technology entered our lives so gradually, actually meeting real people, face-to-face seemed somewhat…inefficient and taxing. Now this also happens to be a generation of over-educated, over-qualified, unemployed or underemployed people trying to find decent work during one of the worst economic crises the US has ever seen. Many young adults would rather search sites like Craig’s List, Monster or Career Builder than actually have to “pound the pavement” or call potential employees. While the internet and social media are really helpful tools, there’s nothing quite as effective as getting your face out there and meeting people.

Networking parties are a great way to make new contacts that can help lead you to your dream career. If you’re one of these types that get timid in crowds or have forgotten the art of conversation, you can play it off. The beauty of networking parties is that it’s already set up like a game and everyone knows the  main objective is to shake as many hands and trade as many business cards as possible. Once you find an event here are some suggested guidelines for playing the networking game. Your first time out, show up with at least 15 business cards. Next time, bring 30. Since many of these functions have open bars or discounted ones, get yourself a drink every 100 points and snack every 50 if they have free nibbles:

  • 1 point for every person you talk to –
  • 5 points for every conversation you initiate –
  • 2 points for every business card you get –
  • 5 points for each of your business cards you give away (Must make conversation first!)
  • 10 bonus points for every conversation you start with something other than your name, what you “do”, where you’re from or asking that of the other person –
  • You ran out of cards already? 30 bonus points!

If you still really don’t want to go it alone, bring a friend along with you. Play head-to-head or cooperatively, but don’t forget the most important part is the follow-up. The next day, sort your loot (i.e. the cards you collected) by most useful or desirable contacts and work your way down the list. Give yourself 5 points for every contact you reach out to – every time you receive a reply it’s 10 points.

Email is ok for this one, but you’ll eventually have to level up to a phone call or (*gasp*) meeting again in person if all goes well. You might even make it to a “boss stage” where you’ll  be put in touch with someone with a job opportunity that’s perfect for you. Just like most games, this one may take a few tries to win. But if you put yourself out there and appreciate the small accomplishments, they can pay off in a big way down the line.

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