By Shajmil Smith
Introverts—Stand up and stand proud! We can prevail in NETWORKING!
I am a self-described introvert and finally comfortable with this awareness. I am also friendly, smart, ambitious, and not necessarily shy. However, at the end of the day, I would rather a quiet setting by myself instead of attending an event with a large group of people; whether I know them or not makes no difference.
As a leader, I have learned to capitalize on my introverted nature by focusing on quality instead of quantity and being very intentional about managing stakeholders and building relationships.
Now that I am an active job seeker, my boundaries have been truly tested! Fellow comrades can relate to the idea of having to do the following activities:
- Attending multiple networking events
- Cold calling or emailing a recruiter
- Updating LinkedIn
- Posting on LinkedIn
- Contacting old colleagues out of the blue
- Following up with contacts you didn’t really want to contact in the first place
- Attending yet another networking event
I come to encourage you. You can network effectively as an introvert, especially while you take advantage of this new virtual reality we are all dealing with now!
Here are a few tips for in-person and virtual networking:
#1 Tip. Just do it, even if you have to force yourself or reward yourself later. This has to be the first step because, at the end of the day, it’s what matters most. Once you walk through the door, make eye contact, log in, find a seat or place to stand. I promise you will feel much better—but you must take the first step.
Set small and specific goals for yourself for the event you attend, such as
- show up,
- talk to at least two people,
- stay for the entire event—don’t escape,
- ask one question during Q and A, and
- offer to help/volunteer.
- Arrive early to scope out the location, and if you’re comfortable, offer to help the host set up. Arriving early also allows you to choose your seat/standing area and maybe, meet a couple of introverts.
- Find a person who is also alone and introduce yourself. This is my go-to strategy for in-person networking. Remember, its quality, not quantity. Making one new connection and having an authentic and genuine conversation instead of standing in a group of people and exchanging business cards cannot be underscored.
- Follow-up via email with each person you talked to, and request to connect on LinkedIn. When emailing, ensure you add a personal touch or reflection from your encounter. Email is easy for introverts, so it’s important to take advantage and make it more personal. Show the person you cared with your great listening skills. Lastly, offer to help them in some way. It can be as simple as offering your LinkedIn contacts or meeting for coffee in the future (after you’ve recovered from the networking event, of course!).
- Take advantage of the virtual meetings/webinars occurring right now. Career-Confidence.org hosts exceptional webinars on various topics that will benefit you and your job search. More important, you have an opportunity to network, make new connections, and support fellow job seekers.
- Turn on your camera. Similar to stepping into a room full of people you don’t know, turning on your camera can be just as intimidating. However, it will ease the feeling of social distance and help in connecting with others. It’s also great practice for the virtual interview you want to secure.
- Share your contact information during the virtual meeting in the chat box, if possible. Request a LinkedIn connection with everyone who has shared their information, and remember to make the request personal by referring to how you met and/or offering to help them.
- Use LinkedIn for the powerful networking tool that it is. We have all heard this multiple times, but it is true! Take advantage of your 2nd and 3rd Connections, and request informational interviews to understand the person’s experience and insight. They are powerful! You will be surprised by the responses you get from people you haven’t met before! Again, Career-Confidence.org offers great webinars on using LinkedIn.
In Summary, no matter the circumstance or your reason for networking, remember to:
- Follow-up with a thank you to each person who has spent time with you. This includes prescreen interviews, hiring managers, and informational interviews. Treat these moments as the gifts they truly are.
- Network with a positive mindset. Be authentic; networking doesn’t have to feel superficial if you focus on building relationships as opposed to “asking” for something.
- Keep moving forward. Remember, when it comes to networking and making connections, “Some Will, Some Won’t—So What!” Keep moving forward and offer grace to those around you!
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The ending. “Some Will, Some Won’t—So What!” Keep moving forward and offer grace to those around you!”
The last phrase of “offering grace to all around you” inspired me to be more generous and gentle to others and myself.