Let’s Chat

31 Oct

I am a chatter. From small talk to heart-to-hearts, you can always count on me for a conversation. I can thank my parents for that. My tendency to banter was instilled at an early age as I watched my parents devote what felt like days to swapping stories with new friends like Marco, our concierge in Italy. Being a talker is not always considered a strength—in sixth grade Willie signed my yearbook, “Hey, you talk a lot,” and I don’t think he said that because he “like-liked” me. Despite these norms, being a talker has always worked out for me. At the risk of sounding antiquated in a time when value is measured by time and words saved, I’d like to talk about talking. Why?

Because opportunities hide in weird places.

Some of the most valuable stories, friendships, and opportunities I have in my arsenal have resulted from impromptu conversations with strangers. Case in point—the most wonderful and life changing internship I’ve had came out of a conversation started on a college campus when I was lost.

The summer class I had enrolled in was dropped due to low enrollment. My efforts to get reimbursed for this class turned into a misdirected three-hour voyage where I zigzagged unnecessarily across a very large campus. In this time, I caught the curiosity of a professor who came to my rescue after having spotted me on four separate occasions. Our conversation started with simple directions, naturally flowed to the class I was supposed to take (Calc 2), why I was taking it (prerequisites) and then took us all the way to my passion for music. Coincidentally, he happened to know a well-respected music supervisor looking for an intern.

What some may call fate, I attribute to small talk.

Through these moments I have learned to effectively verbalize my interests and skill sets and to tailor them to resonate with my audience. The ability to hold a conversation with those we do not have an established relationship with can seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, the beauty of small talk is that these conversations are often insignificant, so even a bad one results in little losses.  The worst case scenario of opening up to these random conversations is an awkward, but fleeting conversation.  Such momentary discomfort is comically trivial when stacked against the endless benefits these interactions can provide—in my case an enriching employment experience.

by Carrie West

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3 Responses to “Let’s Chat”

  1. Gregory Porter November 1, 2011 at 6:06 am #

    Nice post! I think this can also apply to looking for jobs and establishing a network. Talking with others and seeing what may come of it is vital to networking and building client relationships. I don’t think people realize how client-driven business is and how important things like being able to hold a conversation are to success.

    Greg

    • Jake Lazarus November 1, 2011 at 6:56 am #

      I was just wondering what tactics people use to calm nerves when having a conversation with someone you don’t know? Also, what kind of things do you typically talk about when you are engaged in small talk with a stranger?

  2. Nicholas Brown November 4, 2011 at 6:57 pm #

    Greg, I think you hit it head on with your post. Business is all about networking, and it doesn’t always have to occur at an organized meet-and-greet event. Similar to Carrie, I secured my summer internship by speaking to the parent of my sister’s friend who happened to know somebody looking for a summer marketing intern. It’s great to see how Carrie was able to turn an unfortunate situation into an opportunity for future success.

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