I am a self-proclaimed introvert and proud of it! Being an introvert doesn’t mean that I hide away and my only friends are my fish, but just that when I’m exhausted and my energy bank is depleted I need to be alone or with a single trusted friend to re-energize. It also means that large groups of people can make me nervous, which in turn makes it hard to network. I feel more comfortable with one-on-one interactions or in small groups because it gives me the chance to connect with someone individually. This does, however, put a damper on my networking abilities when I’m placed in larger settings. So what can introverts do to overcome these hurdles and still network?
Networking Options for Introverts
- Start Small – Begin with talking to people you already know and feel comfortable around. Start talking to your family and friends about your career goals, not just the typical conversations of how you’re doing, what’s new with relationships, and any other hot topic. Begin with asking them about their career or job and what they like about it. This helps with starting the conversation and expressing your interest in learning more about the other person. Now it’s your turn to share some information about where you are in your career path and how you would like a career that you can feel passionate about, be successful with, and anything else that’s driving you towards that career goal. Tell them specifically what type of career(s) you’re interested in pursuing and that you would like to talk to people within that field. Who knows maybe they have a friend you could talk to, but you’ll never know until you put it out there.
- Expand Your Network – Now that you’ve mastered the art of professional conversation with the people you feel most comfortable, expand out to the next level of acquaintances. Start talking to other students you know from classes, student organizations, and events you attend. Make an appointment to speak to your advisor or a faculty member within your major of choice. Utilize the same conversation skills you just mastered in your small network group with this new expanded group. You may be a little nervous at first, I always was, but as the conversation commences you’ll feel more comfortable and achieve a new level of success.
- Informational Interview – An informational interview is a great option for anyone to have individual time with a professional in his/her desired career field. People who are introverted tend to feel more comfortable when they’ve had the opportunity to prepare for the conversation and have developed talking points. Informational interviews are an excellent option to still network but have more control over the conversation through preparedness.
- How do you set up an informational interview? Utilize your networks which you’ve just successfully spoken to about your career goals, or talk to a career counselor who may know of someone in your chosen career field with which you can connect.
- What should you ask? Anything you want to know about that person’s career. Some suggested questions would be: What’s an average day like for you? How did you know you wanted to be a ____? What’s the good, bad, and ugly about this career? What tips would you give a current student to help him/her be successful within this career?
- Behavior Guidelines: Treat the interview as a professional interaction. Dress professionally, speak with your highest level of communication skills, make eye contact, and shake hands. But, above all BE YOURSELF. Don’t forget to send a thank you letter to the person you interviewed.
- Job Shadow – This option follows the same guidelines as informational interviewing, except you’ll spend more time with the professional. You’ll actually have the opportunity to see what a typical day is like within that job and still have the chance to ask questions.
Sometimes you’ll have to network in less desirable settings, but through individual successes your confidence will grow which will help ease the butterflies in the stomach. 9 times out of 10 the person you’re talking to is just as interested in speaking with you as you are with them. Professionals understand the power of networking and sometimes they utilize networking with students as a means to screen potential interns. The majority of jobs and internships that are available are found through who you know and who knows you.
Networking through social media like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Blogs is another option for introverts because it allows time to prepare what you want to say. The most important guide to follow with this form of networking is utilizing the most professional form of communication and reviewing your online presence for any unprofessional comments, pictures, etc. For more information and other tips on networking for introverts, check out these blogs and online articles.
How To Network: For Introverts – by: Business Pundit
How to Chat Someone Up
Job Search Networking for Introverts – by: Job Hunt
Networking for Introverts: Part I: Start Using Strategies that Honor Your Natural Style – by: Dr. John T. Carlsen
Karen is a Career Counselor and Internship Coordinator at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). At IPFW she assists students in finding internships, coordinates and assists with campus-wide events, teaches a Career Planning course, and meets with students individually to assist them with all aspects of career development. Connect with Karen via LinkedIn or Twitter.