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.
3 Key Skills Which Give Introverts a Networking Advantage
Last February I wrote 9 Networking Tips for Introverts, Part I. These are hallmarks of the preference for introversion, which describe one quarter of the population:
- Focusing attention on your own inner world of ideas and experiences
- Gaining energy from reflecting on your thoughts and feelings
- Recharging your batteries by spending time alone
- Preferring to have fewer, deeper relationships over many casual acquaintances
- Thinking things through privately before discussion
- Acting deliberately after time to reflect
This blog is about how to turn introversion in to an asset while searching for your next job or career. Even mild introverts can feel at a disadvantage because extroverts dominate our culture, including the job of searching for work. If introversion sounds like your style, then embrace it and use it to your advantage. There may be moments where you may have to “fake” extroversion, but you have probably had practice at this already, as hard and draining as it may be. Extroverts haven’t had as much need to practice or “fake” the strengths introverts possess.
As I mentioned in my previous blog, as many as one in twelve information interviews may result in a job offer, while sending out hundreds of resumes gets little response. The big challenge for all job seekers, not just introverts, is how to develop contacts with people who will spend a short time with you sharing information and advice about their industry, company, occupation, education background, and names of others you might contact. The good news is that you don’t have to attend a large group function and go through the equivalent of speed dating to meet these people.
In her book Self Promotion for Introverts: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead, Nancy Ancowitz points out key skills that introverts already possess and all other job seekers should develop.
1) RESEARCHING: This is the best use of your computer in job search, a far more valuable use of your time than applying for anything you see on a job board. Everyone else is home in their jammies or in a coffee shop applying for those same jobs, which are only about 1/5 of the jobs out there, and often not the most interesting or well-paid ones.
Dig in to the history of an organization which has aroused your curiosity. Read about the leaders and the changes that a company has gone through or is anticipating. Look up terminology you don’t understand. Expand your knowledge about the products and services provided by potential employers.
2) CONCENTRATING: When a person is more inwardly focused, he or she is more likely to delve deeply in to topics of interest. By developing a carefully crafted list of questions based on your research, you are going to be well-prepared for a conversation with any contacts you might already have or will develop.
How do you find these people? Start with a list of the people you already know: friends, relatives, your children’s friend’s parents, former coworkers and classmates, those you know through volunteering or other community involvement. Remember: You will not be asking them for a job! After explaining what or who you are researching and why, ask them who they might know who would be good to contact for information, and get permission to use their names by way of introduction.
Another method of expanding your contacts is LinkedIn, which has been explored in other posts authored by Vicki Lind, Aly Aniker, and Andrea King on this site, as well as others:
The Forbes link emphasizes that a high percentage of employers are now relying on social recruiting, which means they check you out on any kind of social media you might use: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr or whatever is coming next. Use your powers of concentration to make sure every piece of information the Internet shows about you is exactly the image you want to project. Not sure you want to try even one of these ways to connect or how to get started? You might sign up for one of Vicki Lind’s affordable workshops about how to write a compelling LinkedIn profile. You get to decide who to let in to your network, and you can discover the most knowledgeable people to contact in order to start a conversation and gain information. Which brings me to the Introvert’s secret weapon….
3) LISTENING: Most introverts spend more time listening than talking. You may or not be actually interested in what’s being said, but many talkers aren’t paying attention to non-verbal cues that indicate whether or not the listener is engaged. When you are interested, you probably give the speaker your full attention, especially if the conversation is in a quiet setting. Nothing is quite as affirming (or flattering) as an avid listener. By really paying attention in any kind of conversation (or information interview), you are more likely to ask a few thoughtful questions or give more in-depth answers than the person who chatters. Careful listening leaves a positive impression.
You may be thinking, well anyone can research, concentrate, and listen; that’s no big deal. You’d be surprised how many people get their energy from focusing outside themselves on lots of activities (for example, extroverts) and don’t practice these skills enough. Some get bored and antsy practicing and their abilities in this area are underdeveloped. Try asking a few people whom you know and trust to give you specific examples of how well you use these skills, and then come up with a few on your own and share them. This confirmation, along with utilizing the three native strengths of introverts, may be just the boost you need to make progress one-to-one on the inside track toward the best job you ever had.