MBA Career Advice: Find a Common Interest

In this weekly series, our friends at MBA Career Coaches will be dispensing invaluable advice to help you actively manage your career. Topics include building your network, learning from mistakes and setbacks, perfecting your written communication, and mastering even the toughest interviews.

One easy way you know to make a connection with someone is through common interests. It is like winning the lottery when at a networking event, the person you are talking to shares your passion for French new wave film, obscure e.e. cummings sonnets, Korean food trucks, or traveling through Europe by train. But interests are so particular. If you are meeting someone for the first time, how the heck are you going to find that needle in a haystack you share in common? What are you going to do—read off your litany of hobbies and see if they check any of the same boxes?

There is an easier way, and it is based on two simple facts of human nature:

  1. There are certain things we all have in common. One of those things is that we all want to feel more alive. We all like to feel passion and enthusiasm. We like to share the things we love and get carried away by our own positive emotions.
  2. Being alive is contagious.

So the specific content of your experience does not matter as much as the emotion of the conversation. A lot of people think that formal networking conversations need to focus on the professional and how great you are in your career, a myth we already debunked. The best thing you can do at a networking event is talk about things that make you come more alive and engage others in what makes them come more alive. It doesn’t even matter what it is.

Did you have an incredible serendipitous experience this morning, running into an old college friend on the train to work? Did your mechanic make your weekend by giving you a special discount that you didn’t even ask for? Did the sandwich you have for lunch make you nostalgic for one your mom used to make when you were a kid that you looked forward to every day in your lunch? Talk about those things. Because when you do, you come alive. You speak enthusiastically, you smile and gesture naturally, and you exude a contagious sense of positive energy.

When you do this, other people cannot help but follow. Eventually the whole group will be laughing and smiling. You might even disturb the other serious networkers around you. You will be the group conversation everyone wants to be a part of. Then, not only will you have found common interest, you will also have created a shared experience. Then, all you need to do is give those great new connections a future, and you are on your way to building a thriving network!

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