Breaking Barriers: A Guide to Networking for Introverts



Networking for Introverts

It’s a necessary evil of job hunting—networking. But if the idea of standing in a room stuffed with other eager job seekers makes you want to run for the exit, well, we don’t blame you. And if you’re an introvert, sometimes those feelings can be amplified. The good thing is that you don’t necessarily have to attend huge networking events in order to network successfully. And if you do, you can still prepare yourself for success. 

With so much emphasis being placed on who you know in the right places though, networking is an essential part of building opportunities. It’s estimated that 70% to 85% of jobs are filled through networking. If you’re a job seeker looking for your next gig, it’s in your best interest to network. Based on personality type, however, this can present more hurdles for some than others. In particular, networking for introverts can be difficult. Luckily, here are eight proven tips to push past any barriers and network with the best of them.

Here’s 8 networking tips for introverts:

Focus on individuals, not the group.

Job seekers may believe that they must connect with every single person at a networking event, but that’s simply not the case. Seeking to connect with a few key players—instead of glad-handing the entire room—can make all the difference in your job-seeking success. You’ll likely feel less exhausted at the end of the meeting if you had a few good, in-depth conversations rather than a lot of small talk with many people. And it’s more likely that your quality conversations will result in a good connection and potential relationship that can benefit your career.

Consider alternative options of networking.

Not everyone is naturally cut out for networking, so luckily there are alternatives to what we know as typical networking events. Look into meetup groups with people who have similar interests (e.g,. WordPress user groups), recreational leagues, happy hour networking groups, or attending a lecture. Don’t limit yourself to stuffy, formal networking events. These alternative options can provide a more natural way to connect with others and start conversations.

For example, Meetup.com can be a great place to find casual meetings that are geared towards all sorts of subsets, such as women in business or industry-specific get-togethers. CreativeMornings is a breakfast lecture series to help inspire creativity and meet others in your career area. LinkedIn Groups provide an online networking option to participate in discussions with others and build relationships. Networking for introverts may require some creativity, but options exist

Find companies that you’d like to work for.

Let’s say you have your heart set on working with a specific nonprofit organization, but none of the staff attends networking events. It’s up to you, then, to open that door to create a connection. Reach out directly to your potential boss—or another staffer—and ask if you can have an informational interview. Being able to meet with key players one-on-one (and in their own environment, too) can be one of the greatest ways to directly network within an organization that you’d love to work for.

Utilize your existing network.

Networking often gets associated with a stuffy room and subpar appetizers, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Think about your existing contacts, and perhaps their network, and ask to get in touch for an informal meeting over coffee or lunch with somebody who can provide you feedback or become a job lead. This takes the group setting out of the equation and allows you to connect on a more personal level.

Follow-up.

Often, our busy lives can get in the way of cultivating meaningful relationships and (unfortunately) we have short attention spans. Make your hard work pay off by connecting with your new contact(s) on LinkedIn and/or by sending personal emails from business cards or contact information you collected.

Find a friend.

Even though you’re surrounded by people, networking events can sure feel like you’re showing up to the prom without a date. To help increase your confidence, bring a friend with you. Having someone to walk into the room with—and remind you of why you’d make an excellent asset to any organization—can be just the boost you need to approach that bigwig CEO and strike up a conversation that leads to your next job.

Adopt a better attitude.

Networking for introverts can be a challenge but it doesn’t give you carte blanche to let it show. Networking is all about meeting new people, fostering a connection, and hopefully get some job leads. If you head into an event with a negative mindset, you’re not likely to get much out of it. Your internal thoughts can control your attitude and the impression you present to others. Smile and think positively to improve your mood.

Be yourself.

When networking, it’s important to remember that you’re likely not the only one who’s (at least) slightly uncomfortable. So long as you’re prepared to talk about yourself casually, both professionally and personally, and listen closely to what others are saying so you can keep the conversation flowing, then you’re setting yourself up for success. It’s OK to be uncomfortable and to challenge yourself.

Networking, whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or an ambivert, is an art and a typically unavoidable aspect of professional growth. Continuing to experiment with different tactics will help you develop a powerful, efficient, and non-painful networking practice.

If you’re seeking additional career advice and guidance, FlexJobs can help. Our in-house team of experienced career coaches can provide direction, resume reviews, and more. Book your one-on-one, personalized online career coaching appointment today.

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Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com

A version of this piece was originally published on September 2, 2013.