I get angry at my profession sometimes. There is so much emphasis placed on being outgoing, upbeat individuals that spend a lot of time shaking hands and kissing babies. But that is a strategy made for extroverts.
That means, the message I hear, as an introvert, is that “networking isn’t for me.” It doesn’t help that I hate networking. The idea of talking to people I don’t know. The courage to approach them. Knowing how to strike up a conversation. And then figuring out how to leave the conversation. All while trying my hardest not to be awkward AND not get lost in my own head.
As an introvert, it can all seem like too much. But I have found a way to make it work and while it isn’t something that will always come easily to me or something that I will always want to do, I do know that by pushing myself outside of this particular comfort zone is key to my career success and happiness.
But I don’t network like an extrovert, I create a networking strategy that is more suited for introverts, one that makes sense for us.
That is why I created this guide, it is full of tips, trick and thoughts on networking. It will help you create a strategy that suits you while also encouraging you to step a little outside of your comfort zone, not just for your career but also for your own personal growth.
SPOILER ALERT: Read to the end, I have a FREE worksheet to make networking just a bit easier for you!
Networking Is More than the Event
The first thing to know is that networking is not just networking events. Whenever I ask clients about their networking, all I ever here is about networking events. In fact, what I described above is pretty much my fear and hate of networking, especially at an event!
The networking event is just one of many forms of networking that you can choose. And while I’ll always recommend attending at least one, I recommend it more for pushing yourself rather than for meeting new people (in the case of introverts).
Networking is a mixed bag of tricks and it is entirely possible to create a strategy that doesn’t include events. In fact, I view events almost equally to emails. Those quick conversations you have are just the launching point of a networking relationship, just like an email is!
Network like an Introvert
Introverts prefer one-on-one conversations and have a close friend group. So network like that. Instead of filling your calendar with events (who am I kidding here, instead of steering clear of events!), fill it with one-on-one meetings. Introverts are great at building relationships when we meet people in a quiet setting that allows us to focus on a particular person. So use that as the foundation of your strategy.
Talk to People You Know
The cornerstone of any networking strategy is connecting with people you know, no matter if you are an extrovert or an introvert. I recommend always starting with previous managers and people you would list as a reference. These are your number one advocates as they have hired you, can speak to your performance and, more than likely, want to see you succeed.
For introverts, they are also great practice grounds! Use the people you know as a way to get used to talking about yourself and what you want while also asking questions. Don’t forget to ask them about other people you should speak to, maybe they can introduce you or at least you can use their name as a way to feel less icky about emailing someone you don’t know.
My mind is running a million miles a minute, and if I’m nervous it is easy to get carried away by my thoughts. Which means that I’m probably not going to actually do any networking or if I do finally talk to someone, I’m not making the most of the conversation.
To combat that I do a lot of work ahead of the game. I always have a ready list of questions that I can ask someone:
And on and on. I usually have a good 10-20 questions at the ready and this allows me to not worry about what to talk about. For a more formal informational interview (which can be life-changing!), I have very specific questions prepared.
Plus, I really don’t like talking about myself, so I also have questions that I can use in response to a question until I’m ready.
And when I am ready, I generally keep it short and sweet – less time to get all weird or rambling!
Being prepared allows me to really focus on the person and the relationship building, it has been key.
Attract People to You
One of the great things about social media, is the ability to create, what I call, a passive networking strategy. Attracting people to you. There are a few ways to go about this, but some would be: optimizing your LinkedIn to attract recruiters, start engaging with people who work at companies you want to work at, and generating content that will be relevant and exciting to people within your industry.
Go Softly Forward
When you think of emailing someone you don’t know, do your palms start to sweat? Is it because you are afraid that they will be annoyed? As long as you are emailing a soft ask, they won’t be – trust me! What do I mean about a soft ask? Well one that isn’t, “do you have any job openings?” or in that vain. A soft ask is one for information, wanting to learn a little bit more about what they do. You are only asking for a few minutes of their time to find out information about their job.
When you ask it this way, they are more likely to feel complimented, like “who me? You want to know what I do?” You are making their day, not ruining it!
Don’t Go it Alone
Find a networking buddy or coach, to cheer and encourage you during this scary time. Be accountable to them, create some goals and check in to make sure you are accomplishing them or to provide support if you are having trouble.
See an event you want to go to, but are nervous? Ask them to come along with you and encourage each other to meet your event goals.
If you are in Halton and need someone to go with you, try asking for a buddy on our Halton Career Networking Group over on Facebook. Any HR professionals in Halton wanting to attend one of the monthly events – let me know and I’ll go with you!
I know that these strategies work, as they have worked well for me. Networking began with one-on-one meetings set up by people I knew with people they knew (ok, my first informational interview was set up by my dad!). I didn't go alone to my first networking event, I went with friends.
I didn't settle. I didn't settle when what was being told to me didn't sound right. I didn't settle with the message that networking isn't for introverts. I did something about it.
Now I want to help you with it. That is why I'm excited to share this:
1. FREE Elevator Pitch Worksheet
Job Searches suck. There is no ifs, ands or buts about it. The average job search is 3-6 months in Canada, 6-9 months in the States, already that seems like a long period of time but sometimes we fall outside of those averages. And when we do, when we enter into the 1 year mark (or longer) in an active job search, we can reach a low we never thought possible.
It leaves us feeling lost, frustrated and confused. We question every decision we make, and feel pretty horrible about ourselves. We think we are doing the right things, but we are hearing nothing from companies (either after an application or an interview). Negativity is taking over and it is hard to feel like we will ever get a job, the light at the end of the tunnel is just getting dimmer and dimmer.
But we can’t give up, that isn’t an option right? So what do we do?
First read this article on Staying Inspired During a Job Search and consider taking a day or two (or seven!) off to give you time to recharge.
Next, we need to do a review, we need to see where there is potential, room for improvement and to know whether we should reach out for help.
Let’s look at your applications. Examine, look at your applications to jobs that are a good fit, meaning you should probably have gotten an interview.
Let’s look at your ratio – how many of those did you get an interview for those, how many?
The standard ratio is 1 interview out of 5-10 applications depending, some industries and some circumstances can change it.
For the ones that garnered you the interview, let’s take a closer look. What was it about that application that led to the interview – what was the application process (email direct, networking, ATS), what did your resume and cover letter look like, industry, company size. This information may allow you to further focus your work.
If your ratio is not in line with the average ratio. Then we need to re-examine your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile. Is your resume telling YOUR story, are you sending in a cover letter, is it engaging? Is your resume and LinkedIn profile optimized for an Applicant Tracking System?
Have someone else read through all of your documents, I would have someone who is familiar with what you do (to mimic the Hiring Manager) and someone who isn’t (to mimic a recruiter). Sometimes, we get so stuck in our head when it comes to our marketing documents that it is helpful to get someone else’s feedback. Plus, it is common to constantly tweak it to align with all of the conflicting information out there which leaves you with a resume that isn’t cohesive.
Obviously, if you are really struggling then getting a resume writer to take a look or write you a new one may be the best option for you.
Do you have a networking strategy, is networking a part of your job search? 70-80% of jobs are found through some form of networking so it is important to get a strategy going. Plus it will get you out of the house and out of your head!
Each week you should devote most of your time to some form of networking activity, so next week look at your current network, who can you take out for coffee?
Confused and have no idea where to start? I've written alot about Networking and talk about it a lot on my weekly Q&A on Facebook Live (on my page and in the Find Career Happiness Group).
Stay tuned, I have an amazing freebie coming next week plus an announcement that will make networking so much easier!
When I ask people about their job search, their successes equate to two things – resumes submitted and interviews secured. And while, securing interviews is a goal as you need them to get the offer, tying your feeling of success to something outside of your control is a sure-fire way to destroy your self-confidence and allow a negative attitude to flourish. So my first recommendation for interviews is to be cognizant of them (how many you are getting, how they are going, etc) but instead of using that as a major goal, use networking instead.
Now let’s assume your resume to interview average is good. Let’s look at your interview to offer numbers. On average, it takes interviewing with 4-5 different companies to receive 1 offer. I’m guessing since you are reading this, that that isn’t the case. So let’s examine the interview.
How have the interviews been going? Where have you excelled and where have you struggled? What kind of questions have they asked, and what kind of answers have you given? Are you telling your story or just answering in bullet points? Are you asking insightful questions?
If you are struggling, consider having a friend give you a mock interview or better yet hire a coach, the investment will be worth it. Self-awareness is great, but we are biased, so it is helpful to have someone objective listen in.
At the end of the day, you need to start talking to people. Get some advise from a previous Manager (great start for networking) on your job search, resume and interview skills. Talk with a close friend or family member. Right now, a clear, objective and unbiased look at your job search is exactly what you need.
As always, you can set up a complimentary 30 minute Strategy Call with me and I would be happy to discuss.
And stay tuned for the big announcement next week!
Commuting to work is the worst. And then you get there and the day is full of meetings, interruptions and distractions. Meaning that you have to work extra late or take your work home to get it all done. That means you are devoting a good 10-12 hours per day to your work. At least.
But what if you love your job? And love the team, company and all that goes with it? You don’t want to leave. You just want to try and find some semblance of work/life balance.
The flexibility to work a day or two from home per week is the answer.
And luckily there are many companies and organizations that have jumped on board and are fully supportive. Unfortunately though, there are just as many that are nervous, suspicious and fearful of this trend.
If you are working with one of the companies, it may feel like all hope is lost, but there is a way to build your case and present a plan to convince them, all in 5 easy steps:
1. Tell them what you want.
Broach the subject with your boss. This can be done during an annual review, a weekly meeting or casually over lunch. If your commute was double then normal, the weather was horrible, or you have a lot of focused worked that needs to get done, these are all great icebreakers to start the conversation. Otherwise, just bring it up as something that is important to you.
The point is, they need to know that you want this. You never know, maybe they are open to it but never suggested it (I’ve seen this happen before!). More than likely though, you’ll hear a lot of the reasons why it just doesn’t work. This is GREAT! This gives you the information you need to build your “sales” pitch.
2. Overcome the Objections
What are their objections, list them all out and research ways that these just don’t fit in for you and arm yourself with information.
If productivity is a concern, then track your time. Especially look at time when you need to be focused on a task making sure you track your interruptions and distractions.
If trust in an issue, try to find out why that is an issue by asking some probing questions and inquiring about what you could do to prove your reliability.
If presence is an assumed necessity, think practically about that. Is it really? There are obviously some professions where you do need to be present and accounted for. But there are many roles where management just assumes you need to be there. Think about how if you are needed and you are at home, how would you address this?
If optics is an objection, how are you going to ensure everyone sees your work week as a full week instead of just a few days?
3. Create Your Proposal
First off, what is your work from home plan? How many days a week were you thinking? I would suggest to begin with 1 day/week or even every other week to start. I also recommend steering clear from Mondays and Fridays to address those optics objections.
What kind of research can you use to back up your claim, there are some great benefits listed in this article. Just a few key pieces that really hone in on their concerns.
Lastly, think of their objections. The best way to deal with objections is to validate them, reframe them and then justify the reframe. Be well prepared for a lengthy discussion about them.
4. Deliver The Pitch
Go in with a clear and concise proposal – essentially telling your manager what you want, why you want it, and how it benefits the company. Bring your answers to those objections and showcase your willingness to be flexible. It is okay to arm yourself with some quantifiable evidence about increased productivity with a work from home schedule but don’t overwhelm them, this isn’t a debate!
When you are having the discussion, be open to proposing a trial run, a probationary period if you will. This will give them an out clause which they may feel more comfortable with.
Ask your boss if they would like you to provide a written proposal in case they need to present it to the Executive Team. And then give them time.
5. Become a Work From Home Superstar
Once you are approved, talk with our boss to figure out the communication plan. Did they want you to touch base with them the day before to go over your plan, cc’d on all emails and/or to receive an email at the end of the day outlining what you accomplished? It may be annoying at first, but once you prove yourself I’m sure these things will go away.
Make sure you spend the first few months practically chained to your desk at home so that they can reach you at any time. It only takes once during this crucial time for them to change their minds.
I also recommend saving any focused work you can to be completed that day, so that it is in fact a super productive day.
Soon, you will be well on your way. And you could even ask for a 2nd day to add.
It is scary to ask for something so big, but lean into that discomfort but the result is working in a job you love, with a team you adore and a company you respect all while having work/life balance.
Sara Curto, Career Management Specialist. Working with you towards Career and Job Search Success.
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