Networking is awkward because most adults aren't comfortable meeting strangers and striking up a conversation. For this reason, we tend to rely on ice breakers to get things going. The most common of these is some variation on, "What do you do?" But no matter how you phrase that question, it's not a great way to connect with other human beings – or even to get basic information about their jobs, employers, or career path.
"... your goal is to connect with someone, find common ground, and potentially explore a way to partner with them, then these types of surface-level questions will consistently fail to elicit the response you are likely looking for," writes Melanie Deziel at Inc.
Why? In short, because many of the people you're talking to are not currently working at their dream jobs. Ask what they're doing right now, and you miss the big picture – what they'd like to be doing, down the road. Worse yet, you might offend someone who feels insecure about their job.
Networking is about building strong connections for the future, not just forming temporary friendships to pass the time at an event. To do it right, you need to start a conversation that allows you to exchange real information.
These ice breakers will give you a better chance at doing just that:
RELATED: 5 tips to help you land your first job after graduation
5 tips to help you land your first job after graduation
10 ice breakers that aren't 'what do you do?'
Take advantage of your college career center
Most universities offer career coaching from trained professionals who specialize in development and advancement. Whether or not you have an idea of your career plans post-college, it can be beneficial to take a few hours out of your day and set up an appointment with one of the counselors. Many times, these professionals can review and help you tailor your resumé and cover letter. To top it off, because of their experience and networks in various industries, counselors have the potential to connect you with hiring managers.
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Begin creating and using your network
One of the most important aspects to finding a job is taking advantage of your professional and personal network. Your connections can vary from your family members and friends to your professors and alumni. If you feel as if you're lacking a valuable network, however, business association events and gatherings are the best way to gain important contacts.
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Participate in recruiting and career fairs
This piece of advice may be the most obvious, but many students fail to take advantage of it. Careers fairs orchestrated by your specific college are invaluable. They allow you to not only learn about opportunities in your respective career, but it also allows you the opportunity to network with hiring managers and employers of the companies present.
Use your social media wisely
It goes without saying that we live in a social media world. Everything you do online can be tracked, so it's important to make sure you are representing your personality and style accurately, and in the best possible light -- you never know who may be looking at your page.
Always follow up
With the advancement of modern technology, most job applications are done online. Because of this new process, it oftentimes makes it harder to find the person of contact to follow up with. However, you shouldn't let that initial obstacle prevent you from following up. If you can't find the name of the hiring manager directly reviewing your application, use LinkedIn to do a search of the next best person to reach out to. Many potential employees miss out on interviews by not being proactive and sending follow up emails.
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How do you know which ice breaker to use? Go for something that genuinely interests you. Better yet, choose something that sparks curiosity. What would you most like to know about these strangers?
"If you remain curious, then in conversations you appear comfortable and genuine, even without too much foreknowledge of the person you're speaking with," says Michelle Tillis Lederman, author of The 11 Laws of Likability in an interview with U.S. News. "Curiosity brings out the best in us and prompts us to naturally do all the things that foster positive connections, such as maintaining good eye contact, giving appropriate head nods and asking interesting follow-up questions to show we're engaged."