Introverts often don’t approach networking in a way that favors their unique gifts. Here are four networking mistakes introverts tend to make in networking and how to turn the tables on your extrovert job competitors.
I have a confession to make… I’m an introvert. I’m actually perfectly content spending most of my day working alone with my thoughts.
Oh sure, I can fake it. You probably won’t know that I’m an introvert upon meeting me…but the thought of walking into large room filled with people standing in circles “networking” fills me with dread.
I hate those events. Although I almost always have a better experience than I think I will.
If you’re an introvert, here are 4 mistakes you are probably making and what to do about them.
If you’re an introvert, your natural tendency is to want to search for a job quietly from the comfort of your computer. You will happily interact with anyone… via email.
Unfortunately, searching and applying to positions online is not how people actually find jobs.
Here are two big reasons why:
In other words, if you are sitting behind your computer searching for a job, you are going to have very little chance at the jobs you know about and no chance at the jobs you don’t know about.
What’s the solution? Get out there and network.
Now you are probably thinking my advice is to go out and attend a bunch of networking events. However, if you are an introvert, you will probably try to psyche yourself up for one of these events, face the anxiety of breaking into a circle of people already talking, introduce yourself and then… sit and quietly listen.
Aside for perhaps feeling good about yourself for being at the event, this probably isn’t going to do much to expand your network or further your job prospects.
So what should you do instead? Skip these events. Yes, I said it, skip these events. Busting into a circle of people already engaged in conversation and charming them all with your witty banter and insights isn’t where you thrive, so why try to fake it?
And what if you feel like you absolutely must go to one of these events because it is sure to be a great opportunity? Then network like an introvert.
As an introvert you probably hate making superficial small talk with people and want to get down a real conversation about real issues and really relating as a person. The only way this is going to happen is in a one-on-one conversation.
So, don’t seek out the group conversation, but instead try to find the person standing alone awkwardly. Yes, this is most likely a fellow introvert, scared to jump into an existing conversation.
Rescue that person and ask them what brought them to the event. They are probably feeling the same emotions you are.
Or try one of these strategies:
If you need some inspiration, here is a list of questions to get the conversation started.
Of course, if your strategy is to have a number of one-on-one conversations, why rely on the randomness of who happens to attend a networking event? You want to be strategic about who you meet with and schedule one-on-one meetings.
Let me tell you a little secret about networking: You already have a great network. Your friends, family and former colleagues all form a valuable network. You just probably haven’t thought about them in that way.
In fact, chances are good that they know someone who knows someone that can point you in the direction of a great career opportunity. So, there are two approaches to using one-on-one meetings to network:
This isn’t the most efficient method of networking, but it can yield you some great results. What you do is schedule meetings with the people you already know. Ask them for 20 minutes of their time and then talk to them about where you are at in your career and where you are looking to go.
Most importantly, ask them if they know anyone who might help you get closer to your goals and who you could meet with .
This is a very effective strategy for introverts because you are meeting with friends and when they refer you to someone else, you are meeting with friends of friends.
Following this process, you are extremely unlikely to run into any jerks and much more likely to have a number of pleasant conversations.
If you are an introvert, the first time you meet a friend of a friend may feel a bit awkward. Yet, as any good coach can tell you, pushing slightly outside of your comfort zone is all part of the growth process and that is what we are shooting for here.
Feel the fear and do it anyway
You may be wondering: Will any of these people want to meet with me? Won’t I be wasting their time?
I can tell you that I’ve been approached numerous times in my executive career for these types of meetings. Even when I was too busy, I still took them. Why? They gave me an opportunity to honor my relationship with the friend/colleague who referred them.
Yes, relationships make the world go round… and every smart professional will be courteous because of it.
If you have a particular career goal in mind (for example, to work for a specific company, type of company or in a specific role), then having a conversation with your retired Aunt Angie may not bring you any closer to your career objective.
In other words, this approach will deliver you some gems, but you’ll sift through a bunch of mud first. Still, it can be great for building your networking confidence.
A more efficient and strategic approach would be to use LinkedIn to identify the people who you would most like to meet.
Using LinkedIn you can identify who the right people are of you to meet and the people you know who can connect you to them.
Personally, I would recommend a hybrid of the two strategies above. Try to meet with the people you know who are well connected even if you don’t immediately know how they may be able to help and use a strategic LinkedIn-based approach simultaneously.
In truth, this is a mistake that extroverts are just as likely to make, if not more so. The problem is that most people approach networking with the mindset, “How can you help me?”
Guess what? Nobody really cares about your career. I don’t mean that people aren’t friendly or altruistic, but rather that every minute someone spends with you is a minute they don’t have for their work or family.
So, if you want someone’s time, think about how you can give them something of value. Whether it is an article on their industry, a piece of competitive intelligence or simply an offer to help that you make at the end of each meeting—try to add value.
A couple other rules for networking meetings:
In my career in corporate strategy, I used to talk a lot about competitive advantage. As an introvert, your competitive advantage is in your ability to listen and build deep relationships.
Whenever possible compete in the job market on your terms. Network in the environments you thrive in, and dominate your extravorted job seeking competitors by having deep, meaningful conversations that matter. In the end, it is relationships that matter and quality can trump quantity.
Best of luck.
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George Karris is a former corporate executive who coaches professionals on how find opportunities that balance their ambition, purpose and overall happiness. He has a track record of professional success that includes setting strategy for a $4B firm, raising millions for a startup, and leading a team of over 200 people. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School and has studied positive psychology with Tal Ben-Shahar, Shawn Achor and Tony Schwartz. Connect with George on Noomii and his website.