I was talking to a friend at a networking event at school yesterday. I asked how she felt going into the event and how she felt afterward. She said “You know, I was really dreading this event. I hate these networking receptions. But now I’m glad that I came! I think it’s just about getting over that first initial awkwardness.”
I think no one is naturally good at these events. I remember feeling uncomfortable and self-conscious at my first few receptions. What do I do? What do I say? I don’t know what kind of questions to ask…I think everyone feels that way at first.
It would be easier if we could just be straightforward. “Hey you! We both feel awkward and uncomfortable, but social interaction between us would be beneficial! It may lead to positive career outcomes! In the short-term, it makes us feel good to have a connection with another human being! Let’s get past this initial clumsy stage and start meaningful social engagement!” But that would just be strange.
Actually, listening to “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” on the radio helps me with talking to new people. When Peter Sagal has a listener on the line, he is very good at asking friendly questions. “Where are you from? Oh, where is that exactly? Oh yeah, I’ve been there! What do you do there? What does that mean?”