How to Introduce Yourself to a Stranger

Civilian or veteran – rarely do you hear someone say, “I love walking up to a complete stranger, introducing myself and believing they’ll want to talk to me!” Most everyone is apprehensive (or nervous) about introducing themselves to someone unknown to them. If your background and experience has been in a military context for a long time, this trepidation can be more real, because the nuances of networking are less familiar to you. You have been surrounded by people who dress like you, speak in the same jargon and narrative, and commit to the same mission.

In the civilian world, there are many instances when you will need to introduce yourself to someone new: At a business meeting, career fair, community gathering, and job interview. Even at a coffee shop, your kid’s soccer game, or social event, you will find yourself meeting people you don’t know.

Follow these steps to meeting someone new, and you’ll be in good hands (pun intended):

  1. Take the initiative. When walking into a room of strangers, most people stand off to the side and assess the landscape: Who’s there, who looks friendly and approachable, where’s the bar? For this reason, at most business networking events, you see a line of people pressed against the wall, heads-down in their iPhone, or hugging onto a high-top table for dear life.Instead, walk into the middle of the room with confidence! Assess the situation in terms of who you should meet, who looks interesting, and who you will initiate conversation with. Since most of the attendees will be reticent about introducing themselves to strangers, you can project confidence and certainty when you make it easy on them. Make it your burden and job to put others at ease by taking the initiative and introducing yourself.
  2. Shake hands. When meeting someone new, extend your hand for a greeting. An approachable person shakes hands with a new contact, expressing warmth, friendliness and, again, confidence! Resist the temptation to squeeze their hand into submission… as many military veterans tend to do! A bone-crushing handshake is not enjoyable and leaves a negative impression (trust me!).Similarly, don’t offer a “wet fish” handshake, which is weak and limp. This leaves the impression of low confidence and self-worth, and is an unpleasant experience for the recipient.
  3. Make eye contact. When you look someone in the eyes, you show them that you are present and ready to converse. For many people, eye contact feels too intimate and they look off to the side when speaking to someone they don’t know. Imagine how that feels for the other person? Awkward.Good eye contact displays your humanness, and empowers you to detect body language cues in the other person. Are they afraid? Are they happy? Are they distracted? If you watch their eye contact cues, you can adjust your body language and words to support or confirm what they need.
  4. Ask, then listen. When feeling anxious, many people tend to over talk, ramble, and monopolize the conversation. This does nothing for the other person. Humans prefer to talk about themselves, particularly about things they care about — their work, family, career, etc. When you do all the talking and don’t ask them questions, you are removing their desire to talk about things important to them.Ask open-ended questions to solicit conversational responses. For instance, if you ask, “Do you like networking events?” you’ll receive a yes or no answer. Instead, if you ask, “What do you find most valuable from this kind of event?” you will receive an answer that starts a conversation.
  5. Let them go (when it’s time). When is it time to say good bye to a new contact? This is often a real challenge! If you’ve been talking to someone who is painfully shy and afraid to talk to new people, they might not want to end the conversation with you (because then they are alone again). If your goal is to meet new people, then it’s unfair to you to stay in one conversation for an extended period.Graciously wrap up the conversation when you feel there is little left to discuss, or your interest is waning, or you wish to talk to other people. Politely say, “I’ve really enjoyed talking with you and look forward to continuing the conversation. I’ll email you to set up a time to grab coffee.” Then say good bye. Only say this if you truly do intend to follow up. If not, then offer something like, “Thank you for spending time telling me about your long career. I’m sure you’d like to meet other people here, too, so I’ll say good bye for now.”

When you can confidently approach strangers, introduce yourself, and end the conversation gracefully, you will leave a positive impression. Remember that most people you meet are equally as intimidated about meeting someone new.

Source: How to Introduce Yourself to a Stranger


“5 Productive, Pain-Free Ways to Job Search During the Holidays…” (themuse – Stacey Lastoe)

(click to view Themuse article)

Last week, one of my friends confided that her severance was almost gone. “I know I need to start looking for a job, but I might as well wait until January to start,” she said.

Au contraire. I went on to list all of the things she should be doing right now. Yeah, I know (and she knows) it’s highly unlikely that she’s going to land a job this month, mere days before the holidays when everyone is drafting their out-of-office signatures. But that doesn’t mean that all job-search work must be abandoned until the new year. Whether you’ve been entrenched in a search since Labor Day or are just beginning one, I promise there’s a (relatively) pain-free way to keep at it during the holidays.

Read on for five things you can do now that will place you in prime position come January when everyone is business as usual again.

1. Take Job Description Notes
The job boards may be looking a bit bleak right now, but even if your dream gig isn’t jumping out at you, there’s a strong chance that some of the available positions you’re coming across are a close match to what you’re actually looking for. They may not be the jobs you want to apply to, but that doesn’t mean they don’t hold some value.

Read through the descriptions closely, paying attention to requirements and responsibilities. These two subheads are chock-full of useful information that can aid you in prepping your materials (e.g., your cover letter and resume) and figuring out if there are any holes in your skill set. If one job requires Photoshop, you’re probably OK not knowing it—but if every single position you’re interested in does, it might be time to brush up on your knowledge.

2. Update Your Resume
You’re not surprised to see this here, are you? There’s a reason it’s commonplace advice: Your resume really matters. As the first look into who you are, where you’ve come from, and what you’ve accomplished, it has to be up-to-date, typo-free, and relevant to your industry and the jobs you’ve set your sights on. (Most hiring managers don’t want to know about your brief bartending stint two summers ago when you were figuring out how to transition to interior design.)

Focus on listing your most important work experiences, getting rid of that objective statement, and quantifying your bullet points. (Which, yes, you can do even if your job doesn’t involve numbers.) While you’ll have to tailor it for each position, getting it into shape will make that a much shorter task, rather than an all-day event.

Oh, and do yourself a favor and have a friend (or a coach) look it over and give you a brutally honest assessment.

3. Make a List of Potential Contacts (and Draft Emails)
It’s true that now may not be the best time to network and reach out to anyone and everyone who might be of assistance to you in your job search, but that doesn’t mean you can’t at least get the ball rolling. Do your research, scan your brain, and scroll through your LinkedIn for potential people to contact.

Make an exhaustive list, narrow it down, and then begin drafting emails. I’d recommend waiting until at least a few days after the holidays have ended to actually send your carefully crafted emails or LinkedIn messages, keeping in mind that most people who took time off will be inundated with emails on their first day back in the office. And you definitely don’t want yours to get lost in an overflowing inbox.

Not sure what to say? We’ve got a template for you right here.

4. Work on Your Social Media Presence
So you haven’t quite mastered Twitter. Or maybe your understanding of LinkedIn leaves a lot to be desired. Or, your Facebook page contains an awful lot of questionable photos from college. Now is a fantastic time to clean up and polish your social media accounts (a.k.a., deleting anything that’s NSFW—and turning privacy settings on if there are any lingering doubts).

In more and more industries, some kind of social media presence is more or less a requirement. Figure out now how much cred your industry gives to it, and act accordingly. And even though most people will be out of the office, they’ll still be checking their notifications. So you can be active where it’ll benefit you in your search and connect with people in your industry.

5. Get Your References in Order
There’s nothing worse than getting to a certain exciting point of your job search (the post-interview request for references, yes!) and scrambling to make sure you have a) solid references (and their permission), and b) accurate contact info for aforementioned solid references.

Being confident that your former supervisor only has good things to say about you isn’t enough. It’s both considerate and professional to ask to use someone as a reference—and important to let him or her know what you’ve been up to. Once you have your names lined up, check to make sure you have a current phone number and email address for each. Have this information at the ready so that if and when a hiring manager requests it, you have one less thing to worry about.

While some things—sending resumes and cover letters and following up with contacts—may be best left alone until the holidays are but a mere Instagram memory, there are plenty of other easy and pain-free steps you can take in the meantime. Then, when January rolls around, you’ll be able to hit the job search full-sprint.


5 Questions to Ask Every New Networking Contact

personal-943869_1280-600x424via 5 Questions to Ask Every New Networking Contact.

Attending networking events is a necessity in the business world, but you have to do more than just buy a ticket and walk in the door. What you say once you’re inside and mingling with people is vital to succeeding at these events. If you’re not good on your feet when it comes to initiating conversations, use these questions to guide you along:
Once you find out what field your new contact is in, ask a general question like “how did you get involved in (field)?” This question is powerful because it opens the door for the contact to discuss their background, prior experience, and maybe even who else they know in the industry. You get all of this information with one question, so you don’t have to feel like an interrogator pounding your new contact with follow-ups.

“Why do you attend networking events?”

Find out what your contact’s goal is in attending these networking events by being direct and asking him or her. This question can be used to find out if there’s potential for a mutually beneficial relationship between the two of you. Pass along a reference. At its core, networking is about finding new contacts that can eventually be of good use for your professional development, so don’t be nervous about asking contacts what the reason they attend events.

“Any recommendations for industry events or conferences?”

Are you in the same industry as your new contact? Ask for any recommendations on which industry events or conferences you should attend. This question is especially effective when you’re either switching career paths or just beginning your career and haven’t established yourself within the industry yet. Find out which events are worth it and which are a waste from someone who’s been down the same road before with this simple question.

“What do you love most about what you do?”

Networking isn’t just about making a professional connection, but also making a personal connection. One way to do that is by asking new contacts what they love most about their profession. This question goes beyond hearing about what they do and how long they’ve been doing it and goes into their passions and motivations in life, something that creates a deeper bond.

Something off the cuff.

After you’ve gone through all the basic questions, it’s always best to ask your new contact a random question that lets you learn a little bit more about them. Feel out the conversation for clues on their personality and then come up with something creative to ask that will throw them off guard. Some networking experts recommend asking new contacts what their favorite reality TV show is or asking them to share a funny on-the-job story. These questions may not come in the beginning of the conversation, but they still act as icebreakers, giving you an opportunity to learn something new about your contact. Plus, they work wonders when it comes to following up after an event. Let’s say someone tells you a long and hilarious story about a guy who embarrassed himself at the office Christmas party. When you prepare your follow-up with your new contact, throw in something in the beginning along the lines of “Still laughing about that Christmas party story!”


What questions do you tend to ask most at networking events? What questions do you wish more people asked you at these events? Tell us in the comments below!