How to Connect with Interesting People

We have LinkedIn and other social media sites, which are great for communicating the quick and dirty, but how would you know if Joe Shmoe over here, who has a great resume, is someone you trust? You wouldn’t jump at the opportunity of hiring him if you hadn’t met him first, or at the least, ability to communicate in person. My case in point is that face-to-face contact is incredibly important. It is the whole concept behind networking, and networking happens every day. The person next to you on the bus might help you out down the road or think of you as the perfect match for an event, job, or who knows, leading a movement.

Meeting people and learning things is basically programmed into us. What everyone does with their lives is interesting and meaningful to some degree.

In high school I’d never thought of my social interactions as networking, but as I got older, as I got more involved and got deeper into my geography major, I started to realize that these interactions were incredibly important. My peers, parents, professors, community members have so much knowledge, desires and ideas and as my life unfolds I have found it invaluable to have these connections with them. I can call upon them, collaborate with them, exchange ideas and create new ones.

Not everyone is as social as I am though; in fact, being social is dynamic and varies in different social situations. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s awkward, and sometimes you have to make an effort and be curious in order to engage others. Taking the initiative really makes the difference.

Here are some ways to start a conversation. Whatever it leads to, an accumulation of knowledge or a punch to the gut (which shouldn’t happen…), you’ll be fine. If the embarrassment will go away in an hour or a day, then why sweat over it? You have a whole lifetime.

Conversation Starters with Professors

After class: “I really enjoyed that lecture. I particularly like the part about _____.”

  • Your professor might pick the conversation up or just say “thank you,” but you were noticed and now stand out from the crowd.

During office hours: “I’ve really been enjoying your class. What are your main academic interests?”…”What did you do between college and teaching?”…”I have really been interested in ____ and I want to learn more about it. Do you have any suggestions?”

Conversation Starters with Peers

In class or outside of class: “What made you interested in this major?”…”What are you involved in?”…”What do you like to do for fun?”…”How have you been enjoying this class?”

General Advice

1) Listen

2) Ask them questions and show your interest

3) Minimize your own stories

4) Approach people who interest you

5) If you feel speechless/awkward know that everybody does at some point in time and get over it

6) Get their contact information

7) Apply this in professionally situations and casual situations. These are how some friendships start.

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