Networking may come naturally to some extroverts who are at ease talking to new people all the time but for an introvert, the thought of networking can bring significant discomfort and distress. It is a critical aspect of a successful job search and even introverts need to grow comfortable with the process.
Start with the Low Hanging Fruit. Reaching out to a stranger can be very intimidating. Review your target list companies and identify friends, family members, neighbors, and former colleagues who work there. Start your networking with people you know and build your confidence with the process.
Leverage Your Alumni Network. Review your alumni network for contacts in your target companies. Most alumni are willing to share a few minutes with a fellow alum. Most alumni networks are a challenge to maintain so look for alumni on LinkedIn. Use your shared connection to your alma mater to establish a connection.
More Listening Than Talking. Be well prepared with thoughtful, insightful questions to keep your contact talking so you can spend most of the meeting listening and taking notes. Being well prepared based on your research, makes the meeting much easier and demonstrates your interest.
Reframe Your Thinking. Do not think of networking as asking for a job or selling yourself – it is not. Focus on gathering information about industries, companies and roles that interest you.
Be Prepared to Share Information About Yourself. Anticipate that you will be asked a bit about yourself and be prepared. Decide in advance what you are comfortable sharing. Practice your value proposition.
Take Deep Breaths. A few deep breaths will help you relax. It is ok to breathe as you prepare to ask the next question.
Be Yourself. You do not have to pretend to be extroverted in your networking meetings to succeed. Be yourself but strive to be a well-prepared self. Preparation helps to increase your confidence.
Celebrate Your Success. After your meeting, review your notes and consider what you have learned. Congratulate yourself on the information you gathered and the connection you established. Approach your networking one meeting at a time. Don’t paralyze yourself with a long list of contacts. Plan one meeting a time to keep the process manageable and to build your confidence.
Don’t be surprised if you come to enjoy the process. It can be so interesting to learn about industries, companies and roles that you start to worry less about the process. You may find yourself energized by the interesting people you meet.