Is Networking For Everyone?
Just the mention of intermingling with groups of strangers at a networking event is enough to create heart palpitations in most introverts. It’s not that we’re inhibited; large crowds can be an overwhelming experience for many of us.
In meetings or classrooms we are mistakenly thought to be inattentive, shy, or not a “team player.” However, most introverts need more time to digest and reflect upon information than our extroverted counterparts. Our preference is to either work alone or in small group settings (no more than one two or three, please); and our optimum mode of communication is via email, not “brainstorming” sessions.
Embrace Discomfort: Move Out of Your Comfort Zone
If you’re an introvert, straying from your comfort zone can be like fingernails scratching on the chalkboard of your nerves. Yet, many introverts have learned that an unwillingness to develop and build a professional network can be limiting to one’s career advancement.
There are countless excuses that we can devise in order not to invest the time and energy needed to network, such as:
- “I don’t want to bother people”
–Keep in mind that:
*people like to give advice, and want to “give back’ to students
*people like to be considered or recognized as an “expert”
*people actually enjoy being helpful
- “I don’t know what to say”
–Develop an Elevator Speech
*this is a 30-60 second pitch that summarizes who you are as a professional, your key strengths, what contributions you can offer to a potential employer, and what it is you are looking for
- “I feel awkward”
–Welcome to the Club!
*As an introvert, one of your greatest strengths is the ability to be a good listener. Leverage this talent and, armed with your elevator speech, have a few pre-prepared questions
4 Non-Threatening Tips to Get Started
Not yet convinced networking is for you? Try these simple strategies to get you going:
- Practice with people you know. Our friends and family can be both a stress-free place to begin, as well as offer assistance in your quest to advance your professional career.
- Visit Career Services. Take advantage of the valuable resources that are available to students in the Career Development Center. A career counselor/advisor can offer help to students who are undecided in selecting a major, resume preparation, setting-up a taped mock interview, align you with a job shadowing experience, or assist you discover your interests, skills, values, and personality type.
- Talk to faculty. Professors have real-world experience and connections in the workforce. Experts in their discipline, many faculty members look for opportunities to help students.
- Attend Career Fairs. These events offer students, even introverts, an opportunity to meet with employers. The key will be to research the employers you are interested in meeting with, practice beforehand, work the career fair in intervals
Large crowds can be draining to introverts. We often need time alone to recharge. One way to accomplish this is to step away after meeting someone new, jot down a few notes on the back of their business card as a reminder to follow-up with the new contact, and allow yourself a moment to unwind before moving on. You could also excuse yourself from the group to check voice mail as an alternate way to dissociate yourself from the crowd for a few moments to collects yourself.
Be Sure To Follow-Up
If there is one critical piece of advice I can offer it would be to nurture your network. By that I mean to follow-up with the people that you meet. A thank you card or email will be remembered , and appreciated, by those who receive it. Here are a few more tips in keeping your network near and dear:
- Offer your assistance to your new acquaintances so that it’s a two-way street
- Contact them periodically just to give them an update on your progress
- Inform your network when you have received a new position, as you never know when you may need to reach out to them, again
This may seem like a lot of work, but keep in mind that upwards of 75% of all new hires are the direct result of networking.
Donnell Turner: Director, Career Development