Written by Karyn Keene
We’ve all been on the receiving end of those people whose life is a sales pitch and always brag about their successes. Or you have the complainers and the apologizers. People who whine for two hours about how their life is never going to work out (all the while hinting that you should really do something about it). People who will never shut-up about their favorite film or how adorable-their-puppy-is-don’t-you-want-to-see-him-yes-you-do! And of course the people who freeze and can’t say anything. Sometimes it’s hilarious, sometimes it’s painful…rarely is it helpful.
Talking about yourself well is by far the most difficult part of networking. As you laughed at the list above, you also probably felt a small pang of self-recognition. I know I did (and no, I’m not telling which one). So how, given the numerous pitfalls of the topic of you, can you approach networking conversations with confidence?
Phase 3: Talking About You
After Phase 2 of Relational Networking, most people in the course of a conversation will ask you about yourself. If they don’t, it’s probably because they forgot in the excitement of someone actually asking them good questions about themselves.
If this is the case, you can drop a few hints to remind them you also exist (ie. “oh that’s a really cool technique; I actually use that sometimes when I draw!”). Most people will take the bait, reminded that you are also an interesting person. If they don’t, you may not be talking to a worthwhile connection. Good connections know how to give and take, so don’t get stuck with someone who only takes.
When they do ask questions, you’ll want to have some points prepared to talk about. Think about your answers to the following:
- Where am I from?
- What do I do?
- How did I get to where I am today? (ie. What is my story?)
- What projects have I worked on in the past?
- Who are some artists/writers/etc I like in my field?
- What are my dreams and aspirations?
Once you come up with your answers, practice until they roll effortlessly off your tongue. Practice in the bathroom mirror. Practice with your friends. Talk to strangers in coffee shops. The more you say something, the more natural it will feel.
As you work on your answers, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Keep it short, 2-3 sentences at the most. If they’re interested they’ll ask more.
- Be specific. Details pique interest and make people ask for more information. Vagueness implies you don’t really want to discuss it.
- Include impressive achievements. If you have done anything with name recognition, even if your role was small, say you worked on that project or with that person.
- Be excited. Your enthusiasm about your life will infect others. If you don’t sound like you care, they won’t either.
- Be humble. Some think too much of their accomplishments; we need to tone our conversations down so we don’t sound like we are bragging when we shouldn’t be.
- Be confident. Some of us think too little of ourselves and apologize continually with our tone and body language, as if we feel unworthy to even stand in front of a person. Don’t short-sell yourself. Odds are you have something worthwhile to offer! Figure out what that is and offer it proudly.
- Be yourself. Many of us think we are boring. That nobody could possibly be interested in what we do is a lie. If you are reading this article, you are probably an above-average interesting person. Here is the trick – if you think you are boring, you will sound boring and people will think you are boring. If you think you are interesting, others will, too. Ask your friends and family what they find interesting about you—then believe them and work it into your answers.
Now get to work practicing those answers and discovering what is awesome about you!