Networking: Getting from Awkward to Awesome

NeighborhoodStudiosIconA major focus of Neighborhood Studios is to prepare teens for the workplace- whether it’s as an actor or an architect-and to build those “soft skills” that are so important to succeed professionally. A fundamental skill we all call upon every day is networking. At some point in every person’s professional life, they are required to pick up their black metal cards (the business equivalent to the little black dress) in order to further their professional careers by networking. The ability to engage in conversation with a stranger, and build a diversified network of individuals that will help you achieve your professional goals is key. But it’s scary. And awkward. Heck, as a 30-something I still feel a little socially insecure when entering a room of strangers.

Enter Sea Tea Improv, a local improv comedy company that performs, teaches and trains professionals in the art of communication. At this week’s Neighborhood Studios Career Skills Monday event, apprentices gathered at The Mark Twain House & Museum to drop their guard and to try their hand at learning improv techniques.

An apprentice practices her presentations skills at the podium

Four phenomenal comedians from Sea Tea-Graham, Greg, Julia and Vlad-engaged the group by encouraging them to think of networking as a simple, fun activity and to treat networking like having a conversation with one of their buddies. The key is to find a topic of conversation that elicits excitement and enthusiasm from the other person. When you find that topic, the conversation can stretch out for as long as you like.

The teens counted off, and split up into three groups to learn core improv techniques to help them build confidence, learn to listen and think quickly on their feet. An exercise I really appreciated was focused on committing a person’s name to memory when being introduced. Greg encouraged the teens to think of a word associated with that person that begins with the same letter. For example, if someone were to meet me, they may say notice I have very long arms – a good alliterative reminder might be Long-limbed Liz. Each apprentice went around the circle, introduced themselves using the name game, and made a gesture related to the adjective. This exercise effectively loosened up the group and allowed them to get to know each other.

“Goalie Greg” introduces himself to the group

Vlad led his group through a series of exercises testing the “yes, and