The Philly Cheese Steak Principle

by Kristy Amburgey

Want a great way to initiate a conversation with a new connection?  How about a debate over the best Philly cheese steak?

At the recent National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) event as we sat around the lunch table, I mentioned my affiliation with the Philadelphia area.  Of course, the conversation with one of the gentleman turned to cheese steaks.  We talked about the best cheese steaks, and I definitely had an opinion.  Soon the conversation turned to where we worked and what we did.  I was excited to learn that he worked at a company which hired our students and alumni.  Our talk quickly turned to how the company could further establish themselves with Embry-Riddle job seekers.  After a bit of follow-up, the gentleman has an open invitation to ask me for suggestions about places to eat in Philly, and I have an open invitation to visit his company.

In most cases, a Philly cheese steak would not have had anything to do with a job search, but in this instance, it had everything to do with building a professional relationship.  What was a simple, friendly conversation turned into a valuable connection, one that promised to benefit our Embry-Riddle community.  I want to advocate that this idea of initiating friendly, light-hearted conversations with the goal of growing your professional network be called the Philly Cheese Steak Principle (there’s always hope that it catches on).

The Philly Cheese Steak Principle is great for any level of networking comfort and expertise.  For those people who are uninterested in the idea of networking, this tactic is useful for you.  Find common ground with a new acquaintance by speaking to your passions, your observations or some other comfort-generating topic.  The experienced networker may already have an established list of topics that he or she is ready to use in any situation.  Just as important as being willing to initiate a conversation is working to further your connections.  After you meet someone with whom you connected, follow up with them and keep in touch periodically.

Opening the lines to a great conversation can be as easy as talking about where you are from, the weather, a unique experience or, well, anything.  Moving the conversation into a connection depends on your rapport with that person and your expectations of them.  Remember, you don’t want to talk to someone with the end goal of getting something out of that person.  You want to develop meaningful connections that result in mutually beneficial relationships.

Kristy Amburgey is the Associate Director of Career Services – Daytona Beach campus and currently manages marketing and employer relations for the department.  She has been with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for approximately 10 years and with Career Services for nine years.

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