Love it or hate it, networking is essential for your career. It is an opportunity to exchange information and ideas as well as create long-term relationships with mutual benefits. Networking connections are often your opportunity to make a positive first impression.
First impressions are important and typically made within the first seven seconds of meeting someone. People form first impressions on a wide range of characteristics: age, race, culture, language, gender, physical appearance, accent, posture, voice, number of people present, and time allowed to process. Wikipedia, First impression (psychology) While we cannot control all of these factors, we can absolutely control how we present and introduce ourselves. This will influence whether a potential colleague is interested in learning more about us. So make it count! Make your personal introduction bold, compelling, authentic, and unique. Stand out and provide others a glimpse of who you are.
Crafting your Introduction
Networking often begins with the question, “What do you do?” If you are like most us, you are probably conditioned to say something like, “I’m a [insert title] at [insert company].” For example, I might say, “I am an ombuds for the University of Colorado Boulder.” Yawn. This is unremarkable. To remedy this, it is time to craft a new introduction and to articulate what you want to be known for.
- Ask yourself. If you were a product, why would they want you? What problem do you uniquely solve? What is the solution to that problem? Why are you so effective? Use those answers to create your introduction.
One answer might be, “I help people navigate complex systems and issues. Through listening and asking questions, I help others determine what they want and how to get there.”
Another response might be, “The University of Colorado can be a complex and overwhelming place. I help people navigate resources, communications, and conflicts. One of the biggest problems I see is people not taking the time to consider their motives. I help individuals identify what they really want.”
- Seek input. Still not sure how to articulate your skills and talents? You are not alone. It is sometimes hard for us to identify what makes us extraordinary because our skills and talents seem so natural and we take them for granted. Ask those who know you well, from different parts of your life, to share their insights with you. You will generally discover there are themes or language, which different people use to describe you and what you do well. Use those shared insights to make your introduction stand out!
- Incorporate a little vulnerability. Reveal something honest about yourself. Share what you are passionate about or what excites you about the work you do. If you talk about stuff you love, your face will light up and people will want to learn more. This enthusiasm is contagious and memorable.
- Practice. Try it out. Let others know you are trying something new. Ask them, “What did they hear?” What’s their initial reaction? Get feedback. Adjust your introduction and try again.
Having completed these steps, you’ll be able to make remarkable introductions and favorable impressions at every networking opportunity.
Based on Joanna Bloor’s TED talk: How to Introduce yourself so you’ll be Unforgettable (in a good way!)
By Liz Hill, Associate Director
University of Colorado Boulder Ombuds Office