If you’re reading this, you’ve definitely heard this frustrating job search advice: “it’s all about who you know.” You also know that going out and meeting people at mixers, coffees, and informational interviews can give you a huge leg up in applying to jobs. That’s all good and well, but there’s one crucial snag: you’re an introvert.
Listen, I get it. You’re the kind of person who isn’t afraid to spend time alone – in fact, a lot of the time, you’d even prefer it. You love when your partner goes out of town, and do a jig anytime someone cancels plans and you get to netflix and chill. Unfortunately, you’re also the kind of person who find large amounts of socializing absolutely exhausting.
If the thought of standing amidst a sea of hungry networkers sounds like the ninth circle of hell for you, you’re not alone. And thankfully, there are some things you can do to survive networking without losing your mind.
Set Boundaries: It’s easy to feel like if you’re not networking multiple times a week, that you’re not even doing enough. And if you’re not doing enough, then why bother? But be realistic with yourself, and take baby steps. Set one coffee each week, and set it on a day and time when you’re likely the be most motivated to go. If you can’t stand networking, plan to just go for 10 minutes and talk to one person, instead of attending the entire event.
When in doubt, get information: Informational interviews are the easiest way for introverts to network. Why? Because it harnesses a skill that introverts have mastered: listening. All you need to do is prepare a notebook of questions, open it up, ask them, and wait for the answers. Make sure to look attentive, and be able to talk about what what you’re looking for. Your speaking portion will make up about 10% of the meeting…the other 90% is on them!
Know your comfort levels: Figure out which social situations make you most comfortable, then tailor how you network to those types of interactions. If you prefer one on one conversations instead of large groups, skip mixers, and schedule coffees. If you do better with a sip of liquid courage, schedule happy hours. If the idea of riding public transit makes you dive deeper under the covers, phone and skype calls are better than nothing.
It’s all about relationships: Don’t enter any networking scenario desperately hoping for the person to pass on your resume, or to refer you to a job. Focus on building a relationship, and the rest will fall into place. All someone has to do is like you to want to help you. So be curious instead of desperate – ask about their family, hobbies, and any upcoming travel they may have coming up. If you’re genuinely curious about them, the rest will fall into place.
You’re not wasting their time: Think about a time when someone has asked you for your help and expertise. How did you feel afterwards? You probably felt generous, helpful, and good about the experience. When you network with someone and they’re able to help you, you’ve helped them feel like a good samaritan for a day. So you’re giving to them just as much as they’re giving to you.
If networking is tough for you, remember – be kind to yourself, take baby steps, and make it work for you. There’s no “right way to network”. Just like at Burger King, you can have it your way.