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Conversation Counts: Improve Your Conversation Skills and Job Prospects

Nov 23, 2010

Great conversations can leave us feeling energized and informed. They can also help us connect with others in very practical ways. That cocktail party, for example, can also be the perfect networking forum. Here are suggestions for improving conversation skills and turning social situations into professional opportunities.

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The Art of Conversation

Good conversation is an art, not a science. There aren't any hard and fast rules that apply to every situation, but some guidelines can be helpful as you make your way through the social landscape.

Listen

We've all gotten stuck talking to that guy who thinks he's the most interesting man in the world. What he doesn't realize is that having a conversation is as much (or more) about listening as it is talking. A basic rule: Listen twice as much as you talk. Really concentrate on what other people say, using that knowledge to inform your choice of words.

Keep it positive

Along with over-talking, another surefire ways to put others off is to be overly negative or pessimistic. No one wants to hang out with a Debbie Downer. Instead, greet people with a smile and remain upbeat throughout your conversation. Show that you're an affable and accepting person who likes to laugh.

Be confident

It's natural to feel intimidated when entering the social fray, especially if you're on your own. But nervousness will do you no favors in a setting of strangers. People are more comfortable talking with others who are comfortable with themselves. Even if you have to fake it at first, outwardly project that you're at ease. You can accomplish this through body language, like maintaining good, but relaxed posture and looking your conversation partner in the eye.

Watch what you say

Until you know someone, it's a good idea to avoid discussing politics, religion and other controversial topics. Once you know a person better, sharing opinions on these oft-debated subjects can build rapport. Until then, keep things PC without sharing or asking for views that another person may think of as being personal.

improve conversation skills

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'Let's Talk' - Turning Gab into Opportunity

The above tips are good for a variety of conversations. But how can you use the gift of gab to create professional opportunities? Below are some suggestions.

Get out

Many people searching out work spend their days online scouring classifieds and job sites. Experts suggest, though, that most jobs are secured via personal connections. So go make some. Attend establishments and community events where you can reasonably expect to find people in the field in which you're looking for work.

Show interest

When you're speaking with potential contacts, demonstrate genuine interest in what they do. Ask questions about their professional lives while showing enthusiasm for your own career goals. When you meet those who could be professional resources, exchange business cards with the intention of maintaining an ongoing dialog.

Escape your comfort zone

If you're at a party or another function, rather than spend time only with those you already know, also connect with others who could become business contacts. While it's true that mining your current personal contacts may yield opportunities, others may wait just around the corner in the form of new people.

Request an informational interview

What better place to demonstrate your sophistication and professional enthusiasm than in an informational interview? In the interview, let your conversation skills shine. Eloquently express your interest in your career field and that informational interview could lead to a job interview.

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