Two Networking Conversation Starters

  • Article by: KEVIN DONLIN , Star Tribune Sales & Marketing
  • Updated: July 13, 2010 - 9:58 AM

For many folks, networking is a problem of how to start. There's really no way to ask, "Know anyone who's hiring?" without feeling awkward.

Looking for a job?

Raise your hand if you love networking.

I thought so.

And why don't you get a thrill out of talking to friends and family about your job search?

For many folks, it's a problem of how to start. There's really no way to ask, "Know anyone who's hiring?" without feeling awkward.

To fix that, here are two ways to open your next networking conversation that are proven to produce job leads -- and won't make you feel self-conscious.

1) Use Me as an Excuse to Call
Over the past year, I've quietly been perfecting a short networking script at my Guerrilla Job Search seminars.

In every case, at least one person in the room gets a job lead -- in less than 5 minutes.

Here's the four-part script that people are using to start networking conversations by phone, with explanatory notes in parentheses:

  1. "Hi, this is YOUR NAME! I'm at a training session and they told me to call the most-connected person I know. That's you!" (This gets you over the hump right away, by giving you an excuse to call. Here, that excuse is me -- just say that somebody else told you to call.)
  2. "I'm looking for a position as a JOB TITLE at a company like COMPANY #1, COMPANY #2, or COMPANY #3." (You have to think first, about what JOB you want and 3 COMPANIES you most want to work for.)
  3. "Who would you call if you were in my shoes?" (You're asking someone to take ownership of your problem, by putting their ego aside and thinking as if they were you. Simple psychology that's very powerful.)
  4. "Could I have their name and number?" (Write it down. Hang up. Call that new person and drop the name of the person you called first.)

For best results, use this script to call the most-connected person you know -- the one person who seems to know almost everybody.

Here are three examples of how this has worked in my seminars:

  1. Ellen in Minneapolis, MN, got a networking lead at the chamber of commerce after calling a friend.
  2. Greg in Fargo, ND, got a lead on a pharmaceutical sales job by calling a friend.
  3. Pete in Chanhassen, MN, got the name of an HR rep by calling a colleague he had fallen out of touch with.

2) Use an Object as a Conversation Starter
Chris Russell, founder of, warns that a false sense of pride can hurt your job search, recalling a friend who struggled mightily to get hired. "He would never tell people that he was out of work, even his former co-workers. I guess he was embarrassed."

Russell points out that, when it comes to your job search, you should look for any excuse to start a conversation.

One such excuse may be the "Laid Off, Need a Job" wristband.

Described as an "attention getting conversation starter" by its makers, the wristband retails for $3 and comes in bright yellow, with the message, "I Need A Job."

The idea is, you put wear the wristband each day, people see it, ask about your job search, and -- shazam! Instant networking conversation. More information is at

Two other tactics I've seen are renting a billboard (pricey) and wearing a T-shirt with your resume on it (no verifiable successes).

Now. How else could you get attention and start networking conversations?

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