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
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