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Edition 56: So……what do you do?

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Questions to ask at networking events

I am writing this from an AirBnB in New Orleans, having just attended the inaugural News Leaders Association conference and now staying through the week for the Online News Association conference. 

It is a week full of catching up with old friends and colleagues and meeting new folks. It takes a lot of extroverted energy and is 97% networking. 

About that. Networking is one of my soft skills. I have learned to become pretty decent at it, despite my anxiety. It is a soft skill and one you really can only learn through practice and saying the wrong thing a few times. But, most creative people are honestly pretty awkward people as well, so we can focus on the wrong thing we said to that person three years ago and do they remember and think I am an idiot or did they totally forget who I am because I really am kind of forgettable….

Stop right there. We’re all awkward. Most of the time we think we come off worse than we do. And if a person blows us off, so be it. 

Outside of that little pep talk, I wanted to put pen to digital paper on some ways I’m trying to network in a more meaningful way. Small talk about the weather isn’t going to cut it. And you know it’s tiring to talk about what you do for a living all day because you hate explaining your job. So how do you avoid that?

First, look at name tags. If the person works at a place you recognize or are a name you recognize, start there. Ask them about that amazing project they did the other month and how they did that. Make it a positive thing, don’t gossip with someone you just met. (You never know who is friends with who.) 

If you don’t know of their work, or have not met on the internet, here’s a few questions I would be thrilled if you asked me this week:

  • What’s the most interesting thing you read recently?
  • What’s your favorite book/podcast/Youtuber?
  • What’s your secret recipe? (I make a mean flan.)
  • Do you think hard seltzer (insert whatever hyped drink or food you can think of) is worth the money? 
  • What would you do if not ____(insert job here)?
  • Tell me about your latest success or achievement.
  • DC or Marvel? 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck? (Silly, I know but really hilarious conversations come out of these)
  • What should I eat next? (I am well known in my house for planning dinner while at lunch)
  • I’m interested in _____. Who should I meet here?
  • What’s the next exciting thing for you?
Come say hi!My recommendation this edition is to come say hi to me if you’re at ONA. Or if you’re ever in Phoenix. I really like meeting new people and will have a drink or coffee or tea with just about anyone as long as you are not trying to sell me something. 

Here’s the list of things I am officially at while in New Orleans, but I also really like hanging out in the hallways.
Reading // Eating // Using // ListeningReading //
Pausing The Bone Clocks (it’s a long book and I had to return it to the library) and instead devouring the fourth Maisie Dobbs book // A great read on why we should complicate, not simplify narratives (The Whole Story) // StitchFix’s framework for responsible innovation // My dear friend Mandy’s Project Disconnect

Eating //
I made more cookies, but instead I will share with you this delightful and simple recipe for rice cake stir fry that uses rice cakes in a different way than my favorite dukbokki // I cannot get enough of Starbucks’ salted cold foam cold brew. 

Using //
Been making some diagrams lately and came across draw.io, a simple flow chart and diagram maker that works right within Google Drive. 

Listening //
The Highwomen album. I’m not even a country fan but I love Brandi Carlile and this album is a lovely pick-me-up. Plus, all these articles on them make me want to give these ladies a hug.