As a hardcore introvert, I understand the stress and fear that comes along with networking. I have passed up some great networking opportunities – career fairs, dinners, meet-and-greets, and Q&A’s – just because I couldn’t muster the will or energy to put myself on the spot in front of recruiters. Being an introvert might make it a little more difficult to catch a recruiter’s eye, but it is by no means impossible.
Here are some networking steps to success from one introvert to another:
Prep. Don’t be caught off guard when networking. Set aside an hour to research the companies you like and will come in contact with. Know the company – mission, products, services, customers, news, awards, innovations. Know the industry – competitors, markets, demand, challenges. And look up the person you’re networking with beforehand – know his/her name, education, what you have in common with him/her. Have an opening line prepared, memorized, and rehearsed. You can be ready for any conversation with a genuine interest in the company and knowledge from your research to back it up. If you know that you are prepared for anything, you will have more confidence to initiate a conversation.
Pep. Give yourself a little pep talk before you go network. Tell yourself why you’re qualified for the job. Remind yourself why you are networking. Remember that other people are nervous too – it isn’t just you. And be aware that the recruiter or whoever you are networking with wants to help you.
Step. Don’t be shy. Start walking. Step forward, and make eye contact. Smile, initiate a good handshake, introduce yourself, and say the line that you prepared. Let the conversation flow naturally from there. It won’t hurt you, just take a deep breath and start talking.
With some practice, networking will begin to feel more natural. After having a successful networking experience, you will have more confidence to put yourself in the spotlight and catch some recruiters’ eyes. Use your strengths. If you are well-spoken and confident over email, “meet” over email first with a note that describes your interest in networking with them and why. If you have a great social media presence, Tweet a short note to introduce yourself. Don’t give yourself any room to back down. Introducing yourself before the networking event promising that you’ll come speak doesn’t give you an option. Keep your goal in mind, and start networking.