Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Networking for Introverts. How a Shy Person Can Take Advantage of Networking Opportunities.

I comfortably teach classes on job search techniques to hundreds of people. However, ask me to make small talk and socialize in a room full of those same people and I become immediately uncomfortable. People are often surprised to find out that I am – at my core – an introverted person. Put me in front of a class speaking about a subject I know well, and I become a very outgoing and confident person.

I constantly tout the virtues of networking in the job search – it has become an absolute necessity for success in today’s market. However, I was reminded by a colleague today that I personally stink at networking. Starting today, I have vowed to become better at networking, even though I am an introvert. So I decided we could learn about this subject together. In my research about how to best network as a shy person, here are the highlights of what I have learned.

  • Set a goal for yourself of what you want to accomplish at each event. Your goal can be as simple as getting through the first event while having a good time, collecting five business cards, or making a new friend.

  • Plan ahead to ensure your networking experience is successful. Think of several open-ended questions you can ask when you meet new people and listen attentively to their answers.

  • Realize that you must also be ready to talk about yourself. Prepare your 30-second commercial, also known as an elevator speech. However, your speech should be about the benefits you can offer – not necessarily all about you.

  • Look for other introverts at the networking events. You are not alone; there are other people who feel the same way as you. Look for small groups or people standing alone and approach them first.

  • End your conversations gracefully. Everyone is there for the same purpose – to meet new people. Ask your new acquaintance for their business card, let them know you don’t want to monopolize their time, and tell them how nice it was to meet them.

  • Follow-up after a networking event is critical. As an introvert, I really do not enjoy talking on the phone. Why not send a hand-written thank you note? It takes just a few minutes and adds a personal touch.

  • Analyze the success of each event. Don’t beat yourself up for what you did wrong or how you could have responded better. Instead, ask yourself what worked, what didn’t, where you need to prepare better, and whether or not the event was the right venue to market yourself and make the kind of connections you need.

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