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How to gracefully exit a networking (or any) coversation

How many times have you been at a networking event and felt trapped in a seemingly endless conversation? No more. Here are some tips to gracefully exit any conversation.

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female entrepreneurs

Getting out of those awkward neverending conversations

Ending a networking conversation can be awkward, unpleasant, but absolutely necessary. My colleague, Gary, wrote a wonderful article about why you should end your networking conversations in a timely manner, but I also feel it’s important to address how to politely end those very conversations.

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Obviously, you do not want to alienate a potential contact, but you also don’t want to be roped into endless small talk just because, either. So how do you exit those conversations to save face and time? Here are a few tried and true tips to help make things less awkward:

Try not to feel obligated to stay

Too many times when we’re in a conversation, we feel as if it would be rude to leave, even though we know we’re needed elsewhere. You’re at an event to network. There is nothing rude about politely excusing yourself and moving on to your next contact.

You have things to do, people to meet, and so do they.

Don’t be afraid to exit. The following tips on how to make a less awkward exit will hopefully help you with this struggle.

Simply excuse yourself

If you’ve just met someone, you do not owe them an explanation. A simple “excuse me,” will suffice. If you feel like that’s a bit too short (as I tend to), an extended version of the same sentiment is, “Please, excuse me. I need to talk to [insert name here].”

It’s still short and to the point but offers a brief explanation so the person doesn’t feel like they’ve done anything to offend you. I tend to err on the side of caution and over-explanation, but you should do whatever comes naturally for you and the setting.

The “no fail” excuse

When all else fails and you feel like you owe the person more of an explanation, there is one excuse that never fails, “Please, exuse me, I’m going to make quick trip to the restroom. It was so nice to meet you.”

This gets you free from the conversation immediately, as everyone understands the pressing need for the restroom after a few rounds of networking cocktails.

Make plans for a later date

Especially in networking events, it may be helpful to exit the conversation with a promise of connecting again later.

Exchanging business cards and details and giving definite date to get together “let’s have lunch next week,” instead of “let’s get together,” is a helpful way to close the conversation, but let the other party know you’re interested in discussing things later.

Another way to go about this is, “it was lovely chatting with you, but I need to go/do/meet something/someone. Could be meetup/chat next week about this?” This puts the ball in their court and lets them know you’re interested, but still have other commitments to attend to.

If you want to end all communication (but gracefully)

All the previous tips assume you want to keep things cordial and leave the doors open for further communication, but what if you’re really not interested in pursuing any further contact? Don’t give platitudes about meeting up later if you really don’t want to (I’m guilty of this one!); instead, give a business card with only your email or web address.

This limits communication, while still being cordial.

If you don’t want any type of communication simply state, “It’s been really nice talking with you, but I should really get back to place/person.” You can also use this opportunity to segue into something else. Try introducing a friend, or saying, “That’s a great idea and I think [insert name] would be just the person to help you out with that” and then politely make your exit.

Rope in a pal to help

If you’re going to an event with a friend or colleague, one of the best ways to exit a conversation without hurt feelings, is to have a preset signal. A cough, a look, holding up one finger, something to signal to the other person you need help. Then, you can exit the conversation guilt-free, but there’s no reason you can’t do this on your own with the tips above.

If people persist in talking or asking for contact details that you are not comfortable discussing/giving there is nothing wrong with saying, “If you’ll please excuse me…” and then walking away. If you try to be polite and they won’t take “no” for an answer, it’s a-okay to walk away. You don’t owe them anything more than a polite “excuse me.” Now, go to that next networking event without fear; you now have an escape plan.

#LeavingAConversation

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

Opinion Editorials

10 career hacks for every ambitious man

(EDITORIAL) Succeeding in business takes grit and determination – here are 10 hacks for any fella looking to get ahead in their career.

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Gender equality (for real)

Most career hacks are focused on women these days, but guess what? Men still exist, too! News flash! And another news flash – men of all races and sexual preferences are ambitious in their careers. Wow. What a concept.

Sure, there’s a pay gap. Sure, men have always been allowed to be ambitious without any questions. Sure, sexual harassment is more often inflicted upon women. But there are plenty of men that are underpaid, questioned for their ambitions, and even sexually harassed.

If we truly believe that genders are equal, we must offer career advice to men as well, so in that spirit are 10 career hacks for our male readers that want to be even more ambitious about their careers.

1.) Maintain insanely detailed notes

Early in my career, I got in the habit of keeping a phone log where I documented every single inbound and outbound call, who I talked with, and what the highlights were, no matter how minor or major. I even wrote down (in front of leadership) when the President of the company sat on my desk, inches away from me, and lingered to touch my shoulders. Ick. I wrote down the time, who was at my desk, and what happened. Right in front of him. It never happened again.

Notes, whether digital or hand-written, are an insanely valuable tool. When digitized, all meeting notes and information can can be searchable and easily tracked.

If you meet someone, take real notes, and immediately add a calendar item to follow up with them at a specific time (this is the part everyone always forgets).

Finally, keep an accomplishment journal to be able to suggest and defend a future raise or promotion – it works.

2.) Know your tools

Perhaps you’re recently really into Trello, and during your next job interview, they happen to ask about your organizational skills. Instead of rambling on, you can talk about how streamlined your life is with Trello and follow up by mentioning your three favorite browser extensions that aren’t about sports or beauty but about real work.

Remember your tools when you’re climbing the ladder and always refine them – nothing’s ever good enough, nor is your process. Test them out, be able to defend them, and be ready to recommend them to others.

3.) Be a master of research

Never stop learning, or seeking relevant information. If you’re a new coder, obsess over Stack Overflow during lunch every single friggen’ day. If you’re in the marketing department, stalk Quora topics. Read every industry publication you can get your eyeballs on.

Establish yourself as the go to person in your office, no matter your job title. Be careful not to be the office know-it-all, but definitely act as an information absorber.

4.) Communicate like a boss

This doesn’t mean condescend, it means to over-communicate, which is more rare than you know.. When you meet someone, reach out to them without waiting for them to reach you.

When working on a project with a team, make sure to keep teammates apprised of what you’re doing (without bragging); too often do people assume everyone knows what’s going on.

An example of over-communicating effectively without sounding narcissistic is letting your team know: “I’ve completed X and am moving on to Y – before I do, is there anything I can do for you guys since I’m at a stopping point?”

5.) Always ask if you can help

No matter how busy you are, no matter where you are in the hierarchy, stop to ask others if you can simply help. Just as with the closing of #4, come to a stopping point and ask.

Most people will say no, but a simple, “hey, I know you’re working on the Simon account – I have 30 minutes I could help you reorganize if you’d like!” helps significantly.

Give them a specific reason you can help, too. Not only will this make you the office “go-to” but it makes you so deeply ingrained in the team that people can’t imagine the place without you! Which they shouldn’t!

Just don’t be annoying – know when you’re coming across as fake and knock that off.

6.) Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”

Too often in the workplace, people are scared to sound stupid so they’ll guess. This can lead projects down really bad paths, so get used to hearing yourself say “I don’t know.”

And then add the phrase, “but I’ll find out!”

Yeah yeah, you already know this advice, but you haven’t been told is to try this: “I don’t know, but I’ll find out within the hour.” Add a deadline for yourself so you set expectations just like we talked about in number four.

Or suggest that you both work together to find a solution: Teamwork makes the dream work.

7.) Be kind, even when it kills you inside

You may hate the guy in the office next to yours and Lord knows you might literally die if he tells you the same fishing story again, but you spend more time with these people than you do your own family and they’re human.

They want to be heard, they want to belong, so remember that annoying as they can be, they’re people. They’re YOUR people.

Be kind, and remember that something about you is probably annoying, too.

8.) Smile (hear us out on this one)

Smile when you’re on the phone – your positivity conveys even when people can’t see you because you literally transform your facial muscles, thus altering your voice. It feels awkward, but so what? Kindness is memorable! Especially smile when someone is speaking in a meeting and meets your eye contact – not a flirty smile, but the disarming kind that says “I’m listening and you’re interesting.”

9.) Get to know your five minute tasks

If you always know what can be done in less than five minutes, your down time is never used standing around like a moron.

For me, I keep all emails unread that require any sort of action, and if I only have five minutes before my next call, I’ll hop in and deal with one because I already assessed how long it would take. No down time, no twiddling of thumbs. Those five minutes add up over a week!

10.) Exercise a little

Without exercise of some form, be it running, yoga, or even just walking, research proves the brain is less focused, less sharp.

We won’t recommend a type of exercise, a time of day, or anything specific, but almost every single successful executive, regardless of gender, is pretty serious about fitness.

Eat well, make yourself get up from your desk and move around every hour, and mostly – extend your lifetime so you can actually enjoy retirement instead of enjoying heaven (or whatever afterlife you subscribe to).

It’s a trick!

If you’ve read this far and you’re thinking, “Lani, I just read this exact same list, verbatim but it was called 10 career hacks for every ambitious woman, what the hell?”

You’re right. Because guess what? I don’t believe general career advice is different for men and women. Stories about negotiating salary are slightly different, suggestions for how to request a breastfeeding room are different, notes on gender identity are different, but to succeed in a career takes the same grit and dedication, no matter what’s in your pants.

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Opinion Editorials

10 career hacks for every ambitious woman

(CAREER NEWS) You’ve heard endless career hacks, but most are lame (“always say yes!” and “work hard”). Instead, let’s talk about the things that are easier said than done.

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ambitious career hacks

Gender equality (for real)

All too often do we women have to defend our capabilities in professional spaces – not because we lack anything, or because we are less capable of our male counterparts, but because the historical and common misperception is that gender is inescapably related to our job functions. In reality though, most people now agree that the genders are equally talented, capable, and ambitious.

That said, we know the sting of being doubted in the workplace. For this reason, I have crafted a list of how I remain ambitious and untouched by doubters. And yes, all of these hacks are easier said than done.

1.) Maintain insanely detailed notes

Early in my career, I got in the habit of keeping a phone log where I documented every single inbound and outbound call, who I talked with, and what the highlights were, no matter how minor or major. I even wrote down (in front of leadership) when the President of the company sat on my desk, inches away from me, and lingered to touch my shoulders. Ick. I wrote down the time, who was at my desk, and what happened. Right in front of him. It never happened again.

Notes, whether digital or hand-written, are an insanely valuable tool. When digitized, all meeting notes and information can can be searchable and easily tracked.

If you meet someone, take real notes, and immediately add a calendar item to follow up with them at a specific time (this is the part everyone always forgets).

Finally, keep an accomplishment journal to be able to suggest and defend a future raise or promotion – it works.

2.) Know your tools

Perhaps you’re recently really into Trello, and during your next job interview, they happen to ask about your organizational skills. Instead of rambling on, you can talk about how streamlined your life is with Trello and follow up by mentioning your three favorite browser extensions that aren’t about sports or beauty but about real work.

Remember your tools when you’re climbing the ladder and always refine them – nothing’s ever good enough, nor is your process. Test them out, be able to defend them, and be ready to recommend them to others.

3.) Be a master of research

Never stop learning, or seeking relevant information. If you’re a new coder, obsess over Stack Overflow during lunch every single friggen’ day. If you’re in the marketing department, stalk Quora topics. Read every industry publication you can get your eyeballs on.

Establish yourself as the go to person in your office, no matter your job title. Be careful not to be the office know-it-all, but definitely act as an information absorber.

4.) Communicate like a boss

This doesn’t mean condescend, it means to over-communicate, which is more rare than you know.. When you meet someone, reach out to them without waiting for them to reach you.

When working on a project with a team, make sure to keep teammates apprised of what you’re doing (without bragging); too often do people assume everyone knows what’s going on.

An example of over-communicating effectively without sounding narcissistic is letting your team know: “I’ve completed X and am moving on to Y – before I do, is there anything I can do for you guys since I’m at a stopping point?”

5.) Always ask if you can help

No matter how busy you are, no matter where you are in the hierarchy, stop to ask others if you can simply help. Just as with the closing of #4, come to a stopping point and ask.

Most people will say no, but a simple, “hey, I know you’re working on the Simon account – I have 30 minutes I could help you reorganize if you’d like!” helps significantly.

Give them a specific reason you can help, too. Not only will this make you the office “go-to” but it makes you so deeply ingrained in the team that people can’t imagine the place without you! Which they shouldn’t!

Just don’t be annoying – know when you’re coming across as fake and knock that off.

6.) Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”

Too often in the workplace, people are scared to sound stupid so they’ll guess. This can lead projects down really bad paths, so get used to hearing yourself say “I don’t know.”

And then add the phrase, “but I’ll find out!”

Yeah yeah, you already know this advice, but you haven’t been told is to try this: “I don’t know, but I’ll find out within the hour.” Add a deadline for yourself so you set expectations just like we talked about in number four.

Or suggest that you both work together to find a solution: Teamwork makes the dream work.

7.) Be kind, even when it kills you inside

You may hate the guy in the office next to yours and Lord knows you might literally die if he tells you the same fishing story again, but you spend more time with these people than you do your own family and they’re human.

They want to be heard, they want to belong, so remember that annoying as they can be, they’re people. They’re YOUR people.

Be kind, and remember that something about you is probably annoying, too.

8.) Smile (hear us out on this one)

Smile when you’re on the phone – your positivity conveys even when people can’t see you because you literally transform your facial muscles, thus altering your voice. It feels awkward, but so what? Kindness is memorable! Especially smile when someone is speaking in a meeting and meets your eye contact – not a flirty smile, but the disarming kind that says “I’m listening and you’re interesting.”

9.) Get to know your five minute tasks

If you always know what can be done in less than five minutes, your down time is never used standing around like a moron.

For me, I keep all emails unread that require any sort of action, and if I only have five minutes before my next call, I’ll hop in and deal with one because I already assessed how long it would take. No down time, no twiddling of thumbs. Those five minutes add up over a week!

10.) Exercise a little

Without exercise of some form, be it running, yoga, or even just walking, research proves the brain is less focused, less sharp.

We won’t recommend a type of exercise, a time of day, or anything specific, but almost every single successful executive, regardless of gender, is pretty serious about fitness.

Eat well, make yourself get up from your desk and move around every hour, and mostly – extend your lifetime so you can actually enjoy retirement instead of enjoying heaven (or whatever afterlife you subscribe to).

Never forget

If you’ve read this far, you are equally as confident and aware of the ambition woman is capable of. You know she is inspiring, you know she is valuable, and you know she is you.

Keep these ten tips in mind the next time you feel you’ve lost a little of your luster, and never forget in the most challenging times:

“You had the power all along, my dear.”
– Glinda, The Good Witch.

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Opinion Editorials

The painful, beautiful paradox between suffering and success

(EDITORIAL) Evaluating success is about more than focusing on “rise and grind” cliches, instead adopting a meaningful perspective.

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The painful, beautiful paradox between suffering and success

I know I’m not entirely old, but in my 27 short years on earth, I’ve found one thing to be absolutely true — life exists inside of paradoxes.

Foods are sweet and savory, sour and sweet. Weather is sunny and beautiful, damp and dreary. Life itself is living and dying, up and down. And in every paradox there is something to be learned.

The most recent paradox I’m learning is the one that exists between suffering and success.

I think it is important to first define the two words: suffering and success. And not the Miriam-Webster Dictionary definition, that definition focuses entirely of the etymology of the word and doesn’t take life into account.

Suffering, as it pertains to success, is what a lot of people call the grind. Suffering is whatever loss you feel along the way. They’re the tiny deaths you die each time something doesn’t go the way you thought it should. It is that voice in the back of your head that keeps telling you to quit— that you’ll never make it. Suffering is what makes the success so sweet.

Success, as it pertains to suffering, is each time you get back up. It is the drive you have that tells the naysayers to suck an egg. Success is the rebirth that follows each tiny death. It is what accompanies each milestone that is met. Success is what makes the suffering worth it.

I think this paradox is materialized well in the Japanese practice of Kintsugi. Kintsugi is an art form of repairing broken ceramics with gold alloy. It is the artistic manifestation of the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, or celebrating the imperfection. You see, Kintsugi has less to do with the what, and everything to do with the why… Why repair broken ceramics? Why go through such lengths to make it beautiful?

Because the imperfections tell just as much of a story as the original piece. The gold lines that now hold the ceramic together add beauty to the piece *while* strengthening it.

Kintsugi reminds us to exist in the paradox of suffering and success. Not to fight it or to ignore it but to celebrate it and to be a part of it.

Suffering is an inescapable part of existing. It is also the fortifier of most experiences.

Suffering is the gold alloy that binds our successes together. Suffering is the the beauty that intricately weaves between the success of a once shattered dream. Success is the mended piece that is now decorated with suffering.

The two give each other such a deeper context. Outside of each other, suffering and success are merely events that happen. Independently, they give some things context. Together they give everything context.

So I implore you to try this:

Make a list of your successes, then list every single failure that led you to that place. Don’t do so out of spite or out of anger. Rather, do so with thanksgiving. Fondly remember the lessons you learned through suffering and don’t forget them when you experience success.

And through this exercise, going forward, you’ll remember your own gold alloy sprinkled throughout your life.

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