I recently attended a professional development conference organized by the School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) called Launch Your Career. This conference helps students like me in first year prepare for future successful co-op experiences. Guest speaker Stuart Knight started the day off with a brutally honest and inspiring look at networking. Stuart Knight is a graduate from the School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University and is an award-winning entrepreneur, critically acclaimed author, and producer. He has written, produced and starred in shows that have been seen by over one million people and each year speaks nationally helping some of Canada’s biggest companies reach new levels of success. He is the winner of many awards including the National Entrepreneurs Award for Community Leadership, and is the author of two books: You Should Have Asked - The Art of Powerful Conversation and The Madness of My Mind.
From Knight I learned these three key takeaways which I wanted to share with you:
1. The first is you need to be fascinated in your conversation partner — don’t just settle for friendly! Friendly is the base line because almost everyone is friendly, so you have to do more to stand out. Aim to learn something new about them and make yourself the most memorable conversation they have all day. Recruiters often meet dozens of new candidates per day, and they need to remember you.
2. The second is that you need to ask good follow-up questions. Dull or unrelated questions can kill your chances of an engaging conversion. By asking relevant, specific, and on-topic “part 2 questions” you keep the conversation natural and smooth. These questions stay on topic but aren’t generic and boring; they serve to push the conversation forward. This is often where you learn something new about the person you’re talking to.
For example, look at the difference between asking “how are your kids finding online school?” and “what program are they in?”. The first has an element of personalization while the second does not. Be careful though, you don’t want to get too personal too quickly because it can be inappropriate.
3. Lastly, you want to allow the person to talk about themselves. People can (and want) to chat forever about their problems and ideas. One of the best first impressions to strive for is that you’re a good listener, and thoughtful follow-up questions centered around allowing the person to talk about themselves elicits this response.
With this knowledge and your Waterloo Warrior spirit, you can now go out and grow your professional network!