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
You just finished an interview. It went really well, you are super excited and can’t wait to hear whether you move on to the next steps or, better yet, get the job offer.
So what do you do? Do you go home and wait? Maybe apply to some other jobs just in case?
Do you send a thank you email to your interviewers?
Probably not. How do I know? I spent 15 years recruiting, and I know that the majority of the people I interviewed did not email me. I also know from Hiring Managers that they don’t receive too many.
Which shocks me. This is job search 101, isn’t it? But I think most people think it is a worthless exercise.
But it isn’t.
What it does is shows you want this job. It acts as a reminder of why you are a great fit for the job, how you connected with your interviewer and keeps you in their mind.
And it only takes a minute or two of your time. So well worth it!
Another reason why people don’t do it, is they just don’t know how. What should they write, when should they send it and who should they send it to?
Well I’m here to break all that down for you, to make it even easier and to arm you all the answers to these questions.
What Should I Write?
So I'm going to make this really easy for you, I'm going to give you the perfect thank you email template that you can customize:
Opening Paragraph – thank them for taking the time to meet with you. Throw in a compliment or reference some shared hobby/experience/person.
2nd paragraph – how you are the best fit for the role with an outline of 3 skills/experience that you bring to the table, if you can tie it into a current problem or challenge that they are facing, then even better! You can also throw in a quick example of how your skill set, knowledge and experience will help you exceed their expectations.
Final paragraph – talk about how excited you are to join their team and finish with a call to action (scheduling next steps or offer).
When Do you Send it?
There are a lot of opinions out there on when. I recommend sending it 24-48 hours later (unless you have some other intel that would change that up).
And I have some very specific reasons for this and it all has to do with psychology! I’m going to lay it all out here from the interviewer’s perspective (a perspective I know well since I’ve interviewed SO MANY candidates!)
As an interviewer, when you have a great interview you leave it on a high note and you feel so excited. So while it wouldn’t hurt to receive a thank you letter shortly after the interview, the significance of the value added isn’t maximized.
The next day that excitement has waned, it has nothing to do with the candidate and more to do with just normal human emotions. And each day that goes on it decreases. But getting a well crafted thank you email will remind you of the great connection you had and bring back those feelings of excitement maximizing the significance of the thank you email value.
Now when I talk about other intel – I'm thinking about the timing of your interview and other interviews.
If you interview on a Friday and it went amazing, send the Thank You email on Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning. So 24-48 business hours after and ensuring it doesn’t get lost in a bunch of email if the hiring manager doesn’t check over the weekend.
If they mention the timing of other candidate interviews then be very strategic in when you email them that thanks. Say you interview on a Thursday and they mention that it may be a week or two for you to get feedback as they are interviewing candidates the end of next week then I would send the Thank You email the Wednesday. That way you are reminding them of how wonderful you are right before they are going in to more interviews.
Who do you send it to?
Every single person that interviewed you. And you would create a personalized email for each (don’t send 1 thank you email to 2-3 interviewers).
If you don’t have their email addresses, you have a few options. The first would be to email the person who coordinated the interviews (typically a recruiter) to ask them to forward the email on. If you know of anyone’s email addresses within the organization, you can use the same format to email directly. Or you could hit up LinkedIn and send a connection request!
A thank you email is such a small thing and only takes a few minutes of your time. The benefit it adds to your job search is tremendous. It increases the likelihood of you getting hired. But it also opens up a dialogue meaning that it increases the likelihood that if you don’t get the job that you can receive feedback and even maybe convert the relationship into a networking one!
The weakness question. One of the most feared and misunderstood questions. Yes it is cliché, but that doesn’t mean it is going to go away. In fact what I have seen throughout my 15 years of recruitment is that the weakness question has evolved and that also means the expectations of a candidate and their answer have evolved too.
Just to clear the air, the weakness question is not meant to get you to show how you are NOT the right person for the job, it isn't a trick question meant to trip you up! It is a question to figure out your ability to recognize a weakness, problem or obstacle, come up with a plan to mitigate or overcome the issue and then move forward successfully.
It is a self-awareness question.
And right now the work world is changing drastically. The need has increased for management to focus on high level strategic thinking and not hand holding their employees. Employees who more and more are working from home. Therefore, organizations need to know that they can count on you to notice a problem before it grows into something that has wider ramifications. That is why this question is so important.
I want you to improve your interview skills and show you the key answers to avoid giving so that a recruiter is not rolling their eyes at your answer (it happens, trust me) and eliminating you as a potential fit for the role.
1. Strength wearing a Weakness Mask
The weakness that is not really a weakness. This was what we used to coach individuals on how to answer this (and how some still coach – but please DO NOT listen to them!). Like I mention above, recruiters, hiring managers and organizations want MORE now. And this answer doesn’t tell them how you actually deal with the difficult times that are sure to come and that are a normal part of a career. What it does tell them is that you are either a “smooth talker” always trying to talk your way out of situations or someone who lets others do the fixing for them.
2. “I’m a perfectionist, a workaholic, scared of public speaking”
If I had a dollar for every time I heard one of the above I would be one rich lady. These are so overused! So even if these are your weaknesses, you can’t use them. Well, you can’t use them with these words, there is another way to handle it but that is a recruiter secret for next week. Using one of these common answers tells the interviewer that you are unimaginative and that you just googled a answer.
3. A Hard Skill
Hard skills are something that anyone can learn and overcome. Yes it may be easier for others but think about it, how easy to realize you aren’t good at a technology or a hard skill! Does it actually take some self-awareness? Not really. So what it tells the recruiter is that your Emotional Intelligence is low and that you would rather look at easy things to fix instead of the hard work required to overcome a soft skill weakness.
4. Not My Fault
This type of answer is rage inducing as a interviewer. It is defensive, it puts the blame onto others, and it makes you look bad. Make sure you aren’t using the words “it wasn’t my fault”, “it seemed to my boss that I”, “I was surprised that my manager had that feedback as…” – all of those mean that someone else’s perception is faulty, not you. It tells the hiring manager that you don’t take accountability for your actions, that you will always point fingers and that you are clueless.
5. I don’t really have a weakness
Major eyeroll. Honestly this was so annoying as a recruiter to hear this, even if it was a joke! I couldn’t help but think I was dealing with someone who was truly delusional. Everyone has a weakness. Everyone.
So if you can’t use any of those to create an answer well then what can you use?
An honest answer.
One that talks about an obstacle you faced in your career. Maybe you received feedback from a boss on how you handled a client, or maybe you made the wrong choice in a key decision or maybe you failed in some way.
Tell them about that time. And then about what you did to overcome it. Finish with how this helped mold you to become the person you are today.
That is a formula that is sure to show that you are self-aware, that you own up to your own actions and are willing to do what it takes to succeed, even if it means doing a lot of work on yourself.
If you need more help, schedule a Discover Your Career strategy call with me or think about Interview Coaching - your dream job is worth the investment.
Sara Curto, Career Management Specialist. Working with you towards Career and Job Search Success.
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