Looking for a job? You have to network!
Does that sentence strike fear into your heart?
You are not alone.
The fact is that all kinds of people need jobs. And there are good jobs for all kinds of people. Not all jobs require that you be outgoing, enjoy socializing, or be the king/queen of small talk.
In fact, some jobs are perfect for people who enjoy solitude, work independently, and are careful about sharing information. I’m sure you can think of some professions where a gregarious personality would actually be a drawback.
Yet somehow everyone seems to think that to land a job – in any field – you must either be a born networker or grit your teeth and pretend to be one.
So here’s the good news: it is possible to network successfully without sacrificing your beloved introverted personality.
Here are some tips that could help.
Only network with people you already know and like
You would be surprised to discover how many people that you already know and like could be of help to you in your job search. No need to go to painful networking gatherings. All you need to do is meet a friend for coffee, share what you are looking for and ask for their ideas. They may be able to connect you with a potential employer that they know, or with a friend or colleague of theirs in a related field. I know, you are going to call me out on this and say that you will then have to meet the new connection, who you do not yet know or like…so read on.
Make and develop connections virtually with people that you don’t yet know or like
Not all networking needs to happen in person. Many social introverts are much more comfortable interacting with others online, with time to think of responses at their ease, sitting in a physically comfortable space. If a friend has recommended a connection, ask them to make an online introduction, and begin a conversation with the new person through email, Facebook or LinkedIn. Some online conversation will make you more comfortable, and if it seems like the right thing to do, you can then set up to meet face to face. Sometimes, the face to face meeting will not even be necessary; you may find a job through a connection that you have never met in person.
Find the right networking pace for you – and stick to it
Of course, almost no one is an absolute extrovert or introvert; most of us are somewhere in between. But one way to define which side of the social continuum you are on is to answer this question: are you energized by social interaction, or do you often feel drained after a social event and need time to “recharge” alone?
If even after spending time with someone you love to be with, you need to recharge your social batteries, you are probably closer to the introvert pole. In that case, respect that need. An extrovert may be comfortable having five networking meetings in one day, and come home energized by the experience; an introvert may find that one meeting every other day could work, given that there will be time alone afterwards. Do what feels right for you.
Networking is a frightening word for introverts, conjuring up images of awkward group meetings and arousing a powerful urge to remain undercover, maybe even under the covers. But not all networkers are created alike. Find the networking style that works for your personality, and you might even discover that you are enjoying it!