professional development

Networking for introverts: lose the fear to gain an edge

Brian Gardner /

One of my very great privileges is to run regular workshops on the topic of “effective networking” for people in between jobs. Not the IT kind of networking, but the kind that statistics and anecdotal observation indicates is the most effective and most common in landing a new job, irrespective of job level.

Any career consultant worth their salt will be quick to tell you that 70% of available job opportunities can only be found in the so-called ‘hidden’ job market (depending on your seniority, package, etc – it increases the more senior you are) as opposed to the ‘visible’ job market (which is encapsulated by online job sites such as Seek and Monster.)

The key to unlocking and discovering these ‘hidden’ roles is via the technique of networking.

However, not everyone is filled with joy when they understand THIS is the key technique. At least 50% of workshop participants – the introverts – are dismayed by this news, while about 25% are very excited about the opportunity to talk to others. You guessed it: the extroverts. The remaining 25% would be the ‘swing voters’: borderline introverts/extroverts.

So, what is it that is so threatening to introverts when it comes to networking? After all, introversion is merely an indication of a person’s energy source; these days it’s not seen as a problem that needs to be overcome. Except by extroverts, of course. They see introverts as indecisive, slow, lacking in social skills, or unwilling to collaborate.

So, what can an introvert do to make networking less threatening and confronting – or maybe even enjoyable?

Here’s a good start:

• Don’t use the word ‘networking’, or see it as ‘networking’. Many people have a sense that networking is manipulative, inappropriate, in-your-face – the list goes on. Instead, see the process as building relationships within a corporate or business context.

• Prepare. What do you want to achieve or find out? What is your ‘question’? Who can answer it or give an insight into this question? How can you make contact with them? Is there a good coach or consultant to work through this with you? Perhaps roleplay a meeting.

• Start by meeting with some ‘friendly’ people. People you know well, who like you and who are interested in you. Then choose a context (coffee shop?) and time (when you feel the strongest) that suits you.

• Be interested in the other person – everyone has a story to tell – and you never know where the ‘nugget’ you are seeking can be gleaned.

• Acknowledge that it takes energy for you to interact with others. Allow yourself time to prepare for the meetings, and time to unwind afterwards. Look for early warning signs of stress, such as withdrawal. Finding some time to be alone and reflect and direct your focus on thoughts, ideas and internal feelings. Schedule regular breaks throughout the day to recharge your batteries. Take it slowly.

• Be accountable to your own goals. A good coach or consultant can help debrief, offer encouragement, or sometimes give you a push!

• Pay-it-forward. Offer to meet people who, like yourself, may need support. Be available to talk, and ask questions. People can often sense if you are really interested, they will talk to you about the most amazing things…

So, if you are in the 50% of the population that is introverted, I’d love to hear from you. What do YOU do? What techniques do you have? How can I help you?


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