Anne Bryant, MA, LPC
Anne has thirty years of experience offering practical skills and support to people experiencing transitions in their careers and personal lives. Openings available for individual and group sessions.
9 Networking Tips for Introverts, Part I
How do you gain or lose energy? If you get it meeting new people and exploring new opportunities, chances are you are an extrovert and already attend networking events. If the very thought of entering a room full of strangers and engaging in small talk in order to gain contacts sounds exhausting and possibly terrifying, chances are you tend toward the style of an introvert. You may enjoy conversations that go deeper on topics of importance to you, you may even be able to address large audiences, but probably you love solitude to think, process emotions, or be creative.
Accepting Introversion: Listen up. This is NOT pathological, weird, deviant behavior. Introversion is a preference as well as part of temperament, which Marian Sandmaier explains, is “a set of behavioral and emotional propensities that’s inherited and enduring.” http://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/component/content/article/174-2009-mayjune/588-who-do-you-think-you-are
Studies suggest that introverts make up about 25% of our population. Being in the minority puts undue pressure on us to be like the rest; aim to be popular, sociable, gregarious, and measure friendship by quantity over quality. Whether you are proud of or ashamed of introversion, as a job seeker why is it so important to figure out how to face your doubts and fears about networking?
Why Network: The whole point of networking is NOT to ask for a job, because what you want is to bui ld relationships with people who may know something you don’t about an industry, a company, a career path, or an individual that will lead to more conversations. Even if you discover that you are both looking for work, showing interest in that person’s job search might lead to either one of you providing a useful contact name for the other. That is your goal: developing contacts for informational interviews that will put you in line with people who may know about the vast “hidden” job market right here in Portland. According to a recent Informational Interview Tutorial (http://www.quintcareers.com/information_background.html),
“One out of every 200 resumes (some studies put the number as high as 1,500 resumes) results in a job offer. One out of every 12 informational interviews, however, results in a job offer.” Given these statistics, you can’t ignore this strategy. So, what to do? For many people, not just introverts, the idea of going to a ‘Networking Event’ might feel about as tempting as speed dating after a recent break up.
Tips for Introverts:
1. Your main goal in going to a networking event is to meet people with whom you can later follow up for an informational interview. These later meetings might take place anywhere you both agree on, but they will be within your comfort zone of more in-depth conversations for which you can prepare.
2. In a December, 2012 blog on Mac’s List called “Networking Schmetworking: Tips for Genuine Connection in Oregon”( http://www.macslist.org/networking-schmetworking-tips-for-genuine-connection-in-oregon), the suggestion is to go where your people are, where it wouldn’t feel as forced to strike up a conversation. Examples might be going to professional organizations to hear speakers, volunteering, and attending charity events and fundraisers. One of my shy clients has decided to volunteer to help out at a networking event so she will be sure to show up and relax by performing a task.
3. Find a buddy to go with you, but agree to split up for part of the event instead of sitting on the sidelines together. Introduce your buddy if you meet someone whose background might match theirs.
4. Have a drink (not necessarily alcohol) or a plate of food to have something to do with your hands.
5. Ask open-ended questions of strangers. If you show genuine interest in what brings them to the event, chances are you won’t have to say much else until you feel more comfortable. Anyone, even the most introverted, can learn a few ice breakers, even if it means acting out of a persona, not your most comfortable self. You are probably already wearing a ‘costume’, so play the role of curious friendly newcomer.
6. Make a card for yourself. Even if you have no job title, just use your name and contact information. That’s the minimum. Here is a link to learn more about cards: http://www.quintcareers.com/networking_business_cards.html
7. Set a goal for the event. Perhaps decide to meet just one person you would be curious to talk with at a later date. Ask for a card and permission to call soon for coffee. You don’t have to have your life figured out to do this. Just be clear with them about why you’d like to meet. “I’d like to hear more about what you were saying about____”.
8. If you have made any agreements to follow up, jot them down on the other person’s card.
9. GO HOME AND COLLAPSE. You will probably feel exhausted.
Stay tuned for Part II which will include more tips for introverts on how to network outside of going to events.