10 ice breakers that aren't 'what do you do?'

How to Effectively Network and Find Hidden Jobs
How to Effectively Network and Find Hidden Jobs

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.


(Photo Credit: University of Michigan's Ford School/Flickr)

"... 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:

1. "What's your favorite part of your job?"

2. "If you could do any other job in the world, what would it be?"

3. "What are your goals, and how can I help you?"

4. "Can you give me some advice on X?"

5. "If you won the lottery, what would you do first?"

6. "Would you rather ... (be able to read minds or get a do-over day on a regular basis, fight a bear or a shark, etc.)?"

7. "What's your favorite part of the event so far?"

8. "If you absolutely had to change your name to something else, what would you choose?"

9. "If you could solve only one problem, what would it be?"

10. "Hello, I'm _____."

RELATED: 5 tips to help you land your first job after graduation

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."

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