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 and an announcement 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 these two things:
1. FREE Elevator Pitch Worksheet
2. Purposeful Networking Course (special discount offer of $14.95 on until July 8th)
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!
You hate your job. But you don’t know what to do about it. You are so overwhelmed, stressed out and anxious. You are well on your way to getting burnt out.
Thinking about a new career used to be that light at the end of the tunnel but now it just feels like another weight being added to your shoulders, weight that you just can’t handle right now.
The danger is complete and total burn out. Of remaining stagnant and things getting worse instead of better. Of being so afraid of the journey that we don’t do anything.
You just need to get started.
But on what? When you are so overwhelmed and your head is spinning it can be extremely hard to think about that first step because you can’t help thinking about ALL the steps you may need to take to achieve your goal of a new job or career.
You are over complicating things. Let’s bring it back to basics and make it super simple for you.
Let’s figure out your first step and not even worry about the rest. And it is easier than you think.
ACCEPT THAT YOU NEED TO CHANGE
Staying where you are is not the answer to the problem. Yes there are ways to love the job you hate that will put you in a better mindset for leaving your current job but you need to 100% accept that things need to change, you need to change.
Things are not going to magically get better, in fact they will more than likely get worse the longer you stay. Leaving your job is no longer optional.
PROPEL YOURSELF FORWARD
You are feeling all the crappy feelings right now. Good. Don’t try and ignore them or rationalize them or repress them. Feel them. And use those crappy feelings to push you forward towards your goal of leaving your job behind you.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
Grab your phone or a pen and paper. Just write. Write about all the problems, all the ways life is getting in your way of going after your career dreams.
HOW CAN I SOLVE IT?
Write down solutions, at least one for each problem. Don’t judge them, don’t try to action plan them. Just write all the ways to solve each of the problems.
TAKE THE FIRST STEP
Look at that list. Think about all the different options. Think about how they make you feel. If thinking about a particular solution makes you feel stressed, or overwhelmed or trapped then scratch them off for now. What can you do TODAY. Just one thing.
But maybe you are so lost and overwhelmed that that long list is too much for you to handle right now. So what are some of the things on that list that will give you the biggest bang for your buck? Here are some ideas:
1. Ask for Help
This is a great first step. At work you can ask your boss or a colleague to help with the workload. Or at home, you can ask for help around the house so that you can free up some time to find your new job. Set up a free call with me, maybe there are some free resources or a way that we can work together that will lighten your load.
If you are in the throes of a burn out then this could be tough. But trying to get your 7-9 hours of sleep will help get you in the mindset and give you the energy to take a career change or job search on!
3. Take Care of Yourself
This is an extension of sleep, but I wanted sleep to be its own. This is eating, relaxing and moving. Perhaps your first step is to eat 5 vegetable servings, or to take a walk or to meditate for 5 minutes. Little wins lead to big wins and taking care of yourself gives you that confidence boost while also setting you up for success.
4. Talk to People
If you have an idea of what you want to do or where you want to do it, seek out people to talk to. Ask for more information. This will give you the knowledge of whether or not it is worth investing your time into that particular path, plus it will get you excited to know you are doing something and give you the information and a networking connection that will help make your dreams a reality!
5. Create a Plan
Sunday morning, figure out how much time you can devote to a career change/job search for that upcoming week. Be realistic and easy on yourself. Any time is better than no time.
Then figure out when you are going to use that time. If it is 2.5 hours, are you going to do 30 minutes of work per day or a 2.5 hour chunk of time? Use my Dream Career Planner to help make it even easier!
6. Build a Support System
This goes hand in hand with asking for help. But this is thinking about who in your life can help you out – who can cheer you on, hold you accountable, or give you guidance? This can be one person or many people. It can be a mentor, a peer, a family member or a coach like myself. You don’t have to do this alone!
Life goes by so fast. Which means it is so easy to stand still, in a situation that we hate and have hated. The old classic quote of a journey of a thousand miles starts with just one step is one we all know but not one we live. Because we can’t stop thinking about the rest of those steps needed. But we must remember the alternative. Staying put.
Don’t let that be an option. Pick one thing. And do it. Take that first step.
And of course, if you need help or want to talk it through, never hesitate to set up a complimentary strategy call with me.
Sara Curto, Career Management Specialist. Working with you towards Career and Job Search Success.
Dream Career Planner
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