14 Networking Conversation Starters for Job Seekers

By iHire | August 02, 2021

If you’ve ever been to a networking event, whether it be virtual or in-person, you’ve probably been met with the dreaded awkward silence. While it’s uncomfortable, it’s not uncommon. Knowing how to network and spark a conversation with a stranger isn’t a skill that comes naturally to many.

Despite the potential for awkward conversation, it’s hard to deny the benefits of networking. Professional networking is one of the best ways to meet people and make meaningful connections that can further your career. It’s a cliché, but sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know that gets you the job of your dreams.

As such, you probably understand the necessity of attending networking events. If you’re uncertain of how to network and how to be successful in your networking efforts, it can be stressful. One way to overcome any anxieties you may be feeling about networking is to create a plan for striking up conversations.


Identify Your Networking Goals

When going to a networking event, it’s important to think about your goals. That way, you can better create your elevator speech and game plan for starting a conversation. You can also prepare conversation prompts and networking topics to discuss (more on this below).

Consider why you’re attending a networking event. Is it to purely build your professional network? Are you actively looking for a new role? Are you trying to make a career change? Depending on your answers, you’ll be able to develop a prompt for conversation and a targeted list of questions so that you can have a successful networking event.


Networking event


Prepare Your Elevator Pitch

If you’re getting ready to attend a networking event, you must put together an elevator pitch about yourself, your career aspirations, and why you’re attending the event. Your elevator pitch is a quick and effective way to demonstrate your expertise and qualifications with other professionals, introducing yourself and your connections as well.

By composing this pitch in advance, you won’t be startled when someone approaches you and strikes up a conversation. It can also ensure that you can target your conversation to fulfill your goals. For example, if you’re attending a networking event to learn more about an industry before making a career change, including such information in your elevator pitch is essential.


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Come Up With a List of Conversation Starters and Questions

Now that you’ve identified your goals for networking and prepared your elevator pitch, it’s time to focus on creating a list of good convo starters. Many times, coming up with things to say to start a conversation is a huge stressor. By going to your networking event with a list of questions to start a conversation, you can put your mind and nerves at ease (but never read your questions directly from a note card or off your phone).

Consider adding the following list of conversation starters and topics to your list for your next networking event:

  1. What brought you to this event?
  2. What do you think about the event so far?
  3. Is this your first time attending this event?
  4. What are you most excited about learning today?
  5. What do you think of this location or venue?
  6. Who else do you know here?
  7. What does your company do?
  8. What is your current role?
  9. How did you get started in your career or industry?
  10. What’s the most exciting part of your job?
  11. What’s the best part about working for your company?
  12. What would you recommend someone do if they wanted to enter your industry?
  13. Do you know of any openings at your company or in your industry?
  14. Can I connect with you on LinkedIn?

Be sure to change up your list of questions depending on the type of event you’re attending. For example, if you’re attending a virtual event, you won’t want to ask about the venue. Likewise, if you’re at a multiday conference, consider asking what sessions someone is attending.


Final Advice

If you’re attending a networking event and draw a blank or freeze up when speaking with someone new, it’s okay. Just remember that other people at the event are probably nervous, too. All you need to do is take a deep breath, smile, and introduce yourself. Starting off with kindness and a smile can go a long way!

For even more networking tips, check out our extensive Resource Center.