From Career Services - September 21, 2012
You’ve heard it said over and over – networking is essential in career development and job search. A strong network enables you to exchange information, increase your confidence, learn about developments in your field, and to hear about job openings. And those are just a few of the benefits that networking offers! But does that mean that people who are extraverted and naturally out-going have an advantage over people who are shy or introverted when it comes to job search? Not necessarily. In fact, if you are an introvert, you may actually have natural strengths that make you a stronger networker. For instance, most introverts are good listeners and prefer writing to talking, and you can use those skills to the benefit of both you and your networking contacts.
Here are a few ideas for successful “introverted networking”:
- First, like yourself! You will be more confident in your approach, and frankly, make a better impression, if you truly like yourself. You will be make a positive first impression, and speak with poise about your interests, skills, and accomplishments (all of which you want to do, particularly when you are conducting informational interviews). Identify two or three things you really like about yourself, and let that self-appreciation give you the confidence you need to get started.
- Remember that networking is a two-way street. Rather that thinking of it as asking for favors, consider what you have to offer the person you are meeting. Maybe you can share something you read or heard about on a topic of mutual interest, or maybe you simply offer the gift of listening to the person tell their story. Introverts are typically good listeners, so ask questions, and focus on what the person is telling you. More questions will come naturally, and the conversation will flow.
- Plan how you want to introduce yourself to prospective contacts. We recommend actually writing a script to help get over the hump of not knowing what to say. And it is okay to talk about yourself! The person you are meeting wants (and if a prospective employer, needs!) to know about your experience and accomplishments. You don’t have to provide your entire life story, but do be prepared to share a few key skills or achievements that show your listener your ability to meet your goals.
- Joining professional associations is a great way to make networking contacts, but it can be intimidating to go to meetings and conferences where you don’t know anyone. Solve that challenge by volunteering to work at the registration table or on the planning committee – a much more comfortable way to make those initial contacts.
- Be approachable. Check your body language, (who wants to initiate a conversation with someone in the corner who doesn’t make eye contact and has her arms folded?) and remember to smile.
- Ask the people you DO connect with to introduce you to someone else, either in person or online. It is much easier to begin the networking process when there is a common interest or acquaintance.
- Use email and social media to follow-up after your introductory meetings. Introverts are usually comfortable writing, and email and social media is also a great way to share articles on topics of interest. A very easy way to help your contacts remember you and to keep the connection going.
For a list of public health professional associations and a few guidelines to using online social networking, please see http://www.sph.umn.edu/careers/tipsheets/networking/ and for a template you can use to develop a script to introduce yourself, please see http://www.sph.umn.edu/careers/tipsheets/pitch/