As much as I love skiing, I also love riding the chair lift. I’m a natural networker and the chair lift is a great place to network.

Unlike a long airplane ride, on a chair lift, people are more willing to open up and talk to you. You have a fun, shared experience (skiing) and for most people, a 7-minute ride up the mountain is pretty ‘safe’ to connect with a stranger. You’ll probably never see that person again and there’s nothing to lose by chatting someone up. Plus, you’ve got a captive audience… unless they fall off the lift (or jump!) there’s nowhere to go!

Just this weekend, for example, I rode the chair lift about 25 times. During each of those rides, I’d open with “So, are up just for the day?” And with that, I’d start a conversation, generally leading to what that person did for a living.

Here’s what I found out:

6 people shared with me that their companies in Denver are currently hiring.

10 people took my business card (3 have already followed up!)

4 people shared with me that they found their current jobs on Andrew Hudson’s Jobs List (yay!).

1 person had attended an AH Jobs List Career Bootcamp attendee.

7 people told me that they had used AH Jobs List in the past to find a job.

5 people told me they were currently unemployed and looking (I gave them a 4-minute job-seeking advice seminar on the lift!).

3 people told me their companies have used AH Jobs List to find employees.

2 people told me they knew my wife.

1 person met me at the base of Mary Jane and they bought me a shot and a beer.

For many people, networking is a big mystery. A lot of people hyperventilate with the thought of approaching complete strangers and striking up a conversation. It takes them out of their comfort zone. They don’t know what to say. They feel like they are bothering people or being a nuisance.

But here’s the deal: 65% of all new hires are the result of networking. But networking is not JUST for job seekers. Successful professionals are also successful networkers who understand the value of making connections and seeking information. Networking is a skill that pays dividends throughout your career – whether it means finding new clients or, in the event you are ready to progress your career, you have a strong network you can rely on to find new opportunities.

So, what do you say to get a conversation going?

It varies from person to person, but some common ‘safe’ opening lines are “Where are you from?” “What line of work are you in?” “What do you do for a living?” “Where did you grow up?”

From there, be authentically curious and listen intently for shared or common experiences, backgrounds and connections.

Also be willing to open up about yourself. Think about some unique interesting things about yourself that are going to trigger the other person’s curiosity.

If you’re really feeling like there’s a good networking connection, don’t be afraid to make an ‘ask.’ “Do you have a card? I’d love to connect with you later on about that business idea you have.” Or better yet, maybe there’s something of value you can offer that can result in a formal meeting. “I have a colleague I’d love to bring in and sit down with you. She’s an expert in the kind of challenge you described and I think she’d be helpful just brainstorming with you. How about we schedule a meeting?” If you are looking to change careers or are actively job seeking, you could say, “Your line of work sounds really interesting and is really aligned with what I do. Is your company hiring? Is there someone in your HR department you could refer me to or can I send you my resume?”

Is this going to work EVERY time? Nope. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? I promise that, more often than not, you’re going to find that networking opens a lot more doors than not doing anything at all.

There are all kinds of strategies to networking, making connections and creating meaningful long-term relationships with other professionals. But more than anything, you have to be willing to put yourself out there, eliminate the fear, take a risk and tap into your ‘extrovert’ personality.

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