Written by Judith Hart, Employment Specialist with Next-Steps Employment Centre – Mississauga Meadowvale
Some of us fear networking, and yet others thrive on it. Why is that? It depends a lot on your personality type. If you happen to be an extrovert, as you arrive at the networking event you will likely think: “Oh wow, so many interesting people to meet and opportunities to gain. Who knows, I might even be able to get new possibilities in my field!” However, if you identify more as an introvert, then your reaction might be strikingly different: “Do I really have to meet all these people? And what if they judge me, don’t talk to me, or are uninterested in what I have to say?” Ask yourself, which one sounds more familiar?
If you fall into the latter group of Introverts, fear not! Here are some important networking tips for introverts to consider and perhaps try and implement in their networking journey:
Start with your existing community – Before you jump into attending a networking event with strangers, start with your own community first. Make a list of past colleagues, former classmates, neighbours, friends, and family, and start messaging people. You never know who knows who, and what referrals can be made by your existing network to help in your job search.
Remember: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance – Preparation is an important step in helping you feel ready before the networking event and to help increase your confidence. The more you think about topics to talk about, and individuals to speak with, the more relaxed you will feel before going to the event.
Strive for balance – You don’t need to immediately become the center of attention, nor hide in the corner of the room, but ideally strike a balance between the two. Try small steps to move out of your comfort zone. If you normally stay in the corner, try to stand near the door.
Stop comparing yourself to others – Remember everyone is different. Rather than focusing on how easy it seems for others to network, only compare against your past self. If in the past, you would have only spoken to one person. This time try making that three people. Recognize your accomplishments from how you behaved at past networking events.
Start a social activity – Many introverts find it easier to talk to new people when they have an established commonality. You can find many groups to join on Meetup.com, or pick an activity that you enjoy such as a sports club, dog walking, or a hobby. Meeting people through a shared experience might be easier, and then you can start networking for job search when comfortable.
Volunteer – This is one of the best ways of gaining confidence and meeting people, as well as a great way of sourcing job opportunities. You can find volunteer opportunities online, or by contacting organizations directly.
Start online – Start a blog about your career or your professional interests, or simply connect with people on Twitter or LinkedIn. Many introverts find networking online to be easier, and once you establish connections with new people you may find it easier to attend in-person events where you will meet your online community.
The hidden job market and cold-calling are powerful tools, with over 80% of jobs not being posted. As a job seeker, the more you network, the greater your chances of success in your job search. You do not need to become an extrovert in order to network successfully. You have lots of options, and the important thing is to try different strategies to see what works for you.
For more info, read Networking 101 for Introverts by Psychology Today.