Many of us are shy or reluctant to approach strangers in new social situations. That’s why it is key to get mentally geared up prior to attending a networking event. Your attitude often guides your behavior, and so you must overcome any negative self-talk that could hinder you from reaching out to prospective employers. Do these thoughts sound familiar?

  • “Why should I bother trying to impress this person? I’m only one of a hundred students this person is going to see today.”
  • “I don’t even know enough to engage the company reps in an intelligent conversation.
  • “I’ve never really been good at meeting people. That’s just my personality.”

Such negative thoughts prevent you from pushing past any social roadblocks standing in your way. The truth is that many, if not most, people have similar thoughts in group situation and are just as hesitant to initiate conversations. However, if you change your attitude from negative to positive, you can instead take the lead. Remember:

  • People enjoy talking about themselves. That’s one of the reasons why they attend networking events. Ask them questions to get them started in a conversation.
  • People feel flattered when you show an interest in them and their work/organization. They will reciprocate your demonstrated interest in them with an interest in you.
  • You have more to offer than you might think—you just have to believe it with a bit of self-confidence.

Sample questions you could ask an employer:

  • What do you like the most/least about your work?
  • Can you describe a typical work day or week?
  • What type of education and experience do you need to remain successful in this field?
  • What are the future career opportunities in this field?
  • What are the challenges in balancing a work and a personal life?
  • Why do people enter/leave this field or company?
  • Are there other people with whom you recommend I should speak?
  • When I call or email them, may I use your name?

Prepare and practice your self-introduction. To avoid being tongue-tied when you try to start a conversation with someone you don’t know, prepare a self-introduction that is clear, interesting, and well-delivered. What you say about yourself will depend on the nature of the event, but in any case, it should not be longer than 15-30 seconds. Here are a few examples:

  • “Hi, my name is ___. I’m glad to have this chance to meet you and learn how a criminal justice major can break into your industry.”
  • “Good morning, I’m ____. I used to be a former intern at ____. I’m really interested into becoming _____.”
  • “Hello, my name is ___. I’m a junior Criminal Justice major and I am looking to find out what it is like working in ____