Back To Career News

10 Ice Breakers That Aren’t ‘What Do You Do?’

Networking is awkward because most adults aren't comfortable meeting strangers and striking up a conversation. For this reason, we tend to rely on ice breakers to get things going. The most common of these is some variation on, "What do you do?" But no matter how you phrase that question, it's not a great way to connect with other human beings – or even to get basic information about their jobs, employers, or career path.

Networking is awkward because most adults aren’t comfortable meeting strangers and striking up a conversation. For this reason, we tend to rely on ice breakers to get things going. The most common of these is some variation on, “What do you do?” But no matter how you phrase that question, it’s not a great way to connect with other human beings — or even to get basic information about their jobs, employers, or career path.

networking
Image Credit: fordschool/Flickr

“… your goal is to connect with someone, find common ground, and potentially explore a way to partner with them, then these types of surface-level questions will consistently fail to elicit the response you are likely looking for,” writes Melanie Deziel at Inc.

Why? In short, because many of the people you’re talking to are not currently working at their dream jobs. Ask what they’re doing right now, and you miss the big picture — what they’d like to be doing, down the road. Worse yet, you might offend someone who feels insecure about their job.

Networking is about building strong connections for the future, not just forming temporary friendships to pass the time at an event. To do it right, you need to start a conversation that allows you to exchange real information.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

These ice breakers will give you a better chance at doing just that:

1. “What’s your favorite part of your job?

2. “If you could do any other job in the world, what would it be?”

3. “What are your goals, and how can I help you?

4. “Can you give me some advice on X?

5. “If you won the lottery, what would you do first?”

6. “Would you rather … (be able to read minds or get a do-over day on a regular basis, fight a bear or a shark, etc.)?

7. “What’s your favorite part of the event so far?”

8. “If you absolutely had to change your name to something else, what would you choose?”

9. “If you could solve only one problem, what would it be?”

10. “Hello, I’m _____.

How do you know which ice breaker to use? Go for something that genuinely interests you. Better yet, choose something that sparks curiosity. What would you most like to know about these strangers?

“If you remain curious, then in conversations you appear comfortable and genuine, even without too much foreknowledge of the person you’re speaking with,” says Michelle Tillis Lederman, author of The 11 Laws of Likability in an interview with U.S. News. “Curiosity brings out the best in us and prompts us to naturally do all the things that foster positive connections, such as maintaining good eye contact, giving appropriate head nods and asking interesting follow-up questions to show we’re engaged.”

Tell Us What You Think

What’s your go-to ice breaker? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
Read more from Jen

1
Leave a Reply

avatar
1 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
0 Comment authors
Matt Coulson Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Matt Coulson
Guest
Matt Coulson

I don’t get what the point of this article is. I could say “hello” and introduce myself without it being on this list, lol. Why not add “11.) What do you want to be when you grow up?”, as another suggestion a third grader could have came up with.

What Am I Worth?

What your skills are worth in the job market is constantly changing.