There’s no overstating the importance of networking. It’s how most people find jobs, and that can be bad news for introverts. But as Elaine Varelas, a managing partner at Keystone Partners, writes for Boston.com, there are ways to get past the nervousness and discomfort that come with approaching strangers and asking for help. In a great post titled “Networking Tips for Introverts,” she shares some helpful advice that’s summarized below.
1. Redefine the Term — If you think of networking as walking up to strangers in a big conference room, than yes, it will seem very scary. But as Varelas says, that’s not really what it’s about. Redefine the term as building “a team of advocates to maximize job search success.” Your contacts are “Job Search Advocates,” and you build relationships with them as individuals.
2. Start with Email and Phone — Thanks to technology, you don’t necessarily have to approach people in person anymore. Varelas suggests reaching out to people you know and asking them to connect you with individuals at companies you’d like to work for. Have your existing contacts send introductory emails with everyone copied, and when you respond, thank both people for their time and try to set up 30-minute in-person meetings with the new people.
3. Be Prepared — When you meet with these new connections, you want to discuss their experiences, certainly, but also your own. According to Varelas, some introverts even prepare scripts, and they generally go something like this: “who I am, what I can do, where I was, what I want to do and how you can help.”
4. Be Attentive and Courteous — As the other person is taking, take notes on the advice they offer and the contacts they share. Afterward, ask if there’s some way you might be able to help them. “Most people do not do that as part of networking and this will help you stand out in a positive way,” Varelas says. Finally, ask whether it’s OK to check back later for additional help or advice.
5. Assess and Move Forward — After each meeting, take stock of how things went and think about how you can improve. In terms of those scary “massive networking events,” Varelas suggests doing volunteer work. It’s sometimes easier to strike up conversation if you’re focused on helping other people.