5 Networking Tips for Introverts
We all know networking is essential to forming new professional relationships and advancing your career, but if you’re an introvert, it can be scary. Luckily, we have a few tips for different ways to approach it that can hopefully seem more doable for those of us who are easily drained from being around large groups of new people in an unfamiliar setting.
Make the most of LinkedIn
To network without leaving the comfort of your own home, start with LinkedIn. Identify alumni from your alma mater, mutual connections, or people in your city in a career field that interests you, and reach out to them. Be specific with your ask – do you want to pick their brain on the industry? Send over some questions in your initial message. Do you see a job opening at their company that you’d be a great fit for? Send over your resume and see if they’d be willing to pass it along to the right folks internally. How you frame these conversations will differ if this is an acquaintance or friend of a friend versus a complete stranger, so be thoughtful of this person’s time and relationship to you before asking for too much, too soon.
Leverage your existing relationships
If you’re trying to make a career move, chances are it’s come up in conversation with your family, friends and/or significant other. These are people you already trust who can serve as your biggest advocate. Use them to your advantage professionally! Specifically explain where you’re at and where you’re looking to be, and ask if there is someone in their own network who comes to mind that you should connect with. Have them make an introduction so you can meet in person or talk over the phone. Each new person you connect with may know someone else that you can learn from, and so your circle grows.
Try virtual networking.
Professional networking groups are designed to help you meet people, and many have online communities you can tap into as a resource. Among others, female groups such as The International Association of Women and Ellevate have virtual chapters that provide career support and there are likely other local groups unique to your city that may have an online presence. Finding a group that you can identify with is a great starting point for conversation and can open the door to a lot of new people in your industry, even if it’s done virtually.
Be selective when attending events
If “facilitated networking” isn’t your thing, don’t force it. Instead, be picky about the events you choose to carve out time for, and make sure they’ll be worth your while. Look for a panel of speakers on a topic of interest to you, or a workshop focused on a skill you want to build – General Assembly is one great professional development resource to check out for this. At the very least, you’ll be learning something new at these types of events just by attending and listening quietly. Bonus: you’ll be more likely to strike up a conversation with someone when you’re both there due to mutual interests.
Have a game plan
Maybe you have finally worked up the courage to chat someone up at an event, but the fear of being too awkward is holding you back. Prepare your “elevator pitch” beforehand, detailing your background and goals. Have a few key questions in your back pocket to open any dialogue – what brings you here? What do you do for work? Are you from X city originally? See where the conversation takes you, and have a go-to exit strategy ready. After five to ten minutes, acknowledge that you don’t wish to monopolize their time and say it was great to meet them. If you hope to continue the conversation, ask for a business card or contact information so you can stay in touch.
Erin Cornell is a twenty-something communications professional and aspiring blogger living in Boston, still trying to figure out this whole “adulting” thing. Follow along to read more of her wellness, style and career advice geared towards millennial women.