Regardless, you still ask the question, and then listen to their answer. Next question, "So how long have you been there?" Simply keep asking questions that will give you some true information. This does two things: a.) First and most importantly, you are showing genuine interest in them. b.) People (you included) love to talk about themselves.
Now, because you have honed in on them, they feel good, will automatically (in most cases) like you because you apparently care who they are and what they do. Nothing starts a trusted relationship faster than showing true interest in someone.
And once you start doing your networking this way, (and again, it's the same if you are 'chatting online', make it about them)...it becomes a natural habit and you will find it more fun and easy than struggling to insert your pitch or your interest in where it doesn't fit and makes you look like it's all about you...which if you refer to Tip 1 you'll remember, no it's not.
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