Let’s frame up how you might be in the situation where there are hundreds of HR Professionals buzzing around and you are considering asking one for a business card.
You took our advice and swung by a Human Resources event for the sole purpose of getting a job.
Now that that’s out of the way, here’s what you do:
- Dress appropriately
Dress like you would for an interview when you go mingle. Sure, there will be people there who are very casual but most will be dressed corporate. It is easier to feel like you fit in when you don’t stand out like a sore thumb.
- Stop texting
I get that it can be incredibly awkward to be alone in a room full of people you don’t know when you haven’t had a drink and it isn’t 2am and dark.
Put your phone in your pocket and a smile on your face, no security blankets allowed.
The thing you might not know until you’ve been to a couple conferences yourself: most of the scary professionals are also at the conference alone. It looks like they are travelling in packs or pairs and everyone knows everyone, but the fact of the matter is more often than not they are just like you, alone. Sent to learn something new, network, and represent their company and when they got there in the morning they also had to begin with the introductions.
- The approach
Pick out a loner
This can be a good approach when you are still new, it can be intimidating to approach a group of people. But a loner… well really you are doing them a favour by talking to them aren’t you?
Confidently approach said loner and say something along the lines of “Hi (extend hand for confident handshake while maintaining eye contract in a not creepy way) I’m ________.”
This works very well if you are outgoing and charming. Walk up to a small group and say something along the lines of, “Hi, I’m just going to interrupt… so, what are we talking about?” This works well with a big smile so they know you aren’t trying to be rude, just wanting to say hello and join the conversation.
- Make small talk
Still scared and don’t know what to say to a stranger? Ask them how they are enjoying the conference? Which presentations really stood out for them? Are they from the area, or did they have to travel to attend the conference?
People like to talk about themselves but don’t like impromptu interviews. Be genuinely interested in who they are and have a conversation before jumping straight into “Whom do you work for? Are you hiring? Do you want to hire me?”
- Be transparent
Don’t claim you’re a big deal and try to sound cool. Be honest. “I am just beginning my career and am actually here to meet with some HR Professionals to see if I can learn ________.” Or, “This is my first networking event, but I understand how important it is and I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet some experienced professionals and pick their brains.” People who are already on track in life have some great insights and generally like to try to help the newbies by sharing… it’s also a bit flattering and an ego boost to share your wealth of knowledge and experience.
If you feel the conversation has gone well and you have found some common ground, thank them for taking the time to share with you. Let them know how truly appreciative you are that they have given up some of their networking time to give you that great advice/insight. Then just ask for it, “______ would you mind if I take your business card? I have really enjoyed this conversation and would like to add you to my professional network.”