Networking Series Part III: Networking for Introverts
by Ashley Taylor | October 15, 2015
I have a confession to make—I am an introvert. This is something I have had to come to terms with in many aspects of my life. I embrace my introversion, but during my undergraduate job search I thought it was an obstacle. I kept hearing things like “build your network” and “put yourself out there.” It was so easy for people to say those words, but just hearing them made me anxious. Eventually, I decided that I was acting as my own roadblock to success by letting my thoughts take over. I had in my mind what it meant to be good at networking; envisioning this confident, extroverted person who spoke to everyone and gave out stacks of resumes at every turn. Then I found out that each person has their own way to network and that companies recognize the value of employing a variety of people. In the years since my first experience with my then-enemy (networking), I have found these five tips to be important to networking as an introvert.
Discover Your Style
Networking comes in all forms and the key to being both successful and comfortable with networking is recognizing that it is not one-size-fits-all. Think about what makes you unique and use it to your advantage. We introverts tend to observe often, so use those observations to inform the way you approach and interact with each new contact.
Developing your goals for networking events and situations is helpful in reducing anxiety. Decide what your goal is for each event or interaction, and it will allow you to better prepare.
Divide into Steps
Divide the ongoing process of networking into steps. Begin with a low-pressure information session or join an organization. Then, attend a career fair, and after you build your confidence you might choose to attend a conference. Be sure to allow yourself time to recharge in silence by going to your car, hotel room, or to lunch alone.
Remember not to overthink it! Use technology to do your research in order to ease the anxiety of networking. Create and/or enhance your social media networking profiles (i.e. LinkedIn) in order to inform your networks that you are job searching. This will be particularly helpful since the internet offers a much less stressful networking environment than an in-person career fair. Also, some companies are now offering online career fairs (particularly in the CSE and ECE industry) that you can use as an additional way to network.
I am not suggesting you turn into an extrovert overnight—or at all. The fact is, the world (and the workplace) needs a great balance of both. But, I am saying that growth happens when you are uncomfortable. Challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone!
“Don’t compare yourself to anyone in this world…if you do so, you are insulting yourself.”