Networking Tips for Introverts
November 9, 2018
We all know how important networking is to launching and furthering a career, and over the years I have counseled numerous students and colleagues, many of whom were self-proclaimed introverts, on the importance of networking. Of course, being an introvert does not automatically mean being uncomfortable in social situations, but I thought I would compile a list of tips for anyone who is uncomfortable networking.
First there are two types of networking: the first occurs in a group such as at a conference or a designated networking event. The second is personal networking where you reach out to specific individuals.
Tips for Group Networking
Go with a colleague
Sometimes walking through the door is the hardest part, going with, or meeting a colleague there, can ease those concerns.
Approach someone standing alone
It can be less intimidating to approach on person who Is standing by themselves versus a group. Introduce yourself and the conversation will flow from there.
Pre-prepare your elevator speech
Your name, where you work, and goals, etc. You should make a list of three goals: One short-term – what you would like to accomplish in the next three-six months, and two longer term goals you would like to accomplish in the next two-three years – this gives you something concrete to discuss. Suggestions include:
- Short-term goals: finish a project, lead an upcoming team project, attend an upcoming conference
- Long-term goals: attend graduate school, obtain a specific certification, get a promotion, change jobs, make a career shift
An event is not just about you, everyone there is looking to network. Keep in mind you might be able to assist someone else.
Push yourself to attend events – the more you attend, the easier it will get to mingle and strike up potentially career changing conversations.
Tips for Individual Networking
Begin with your goals
Revisit your short-term and long-term goals – you might have 3 for each – understand the help you need to achieve your goals, i.e. are you looking for an informational interview to learn more about a specific aspect of your industry or a new industry? Are you looking to meet someone at a different company to learn more about the culture there?
Update your LinkedIn profile
Before you reach out to anyone, make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date because that will be the first place someone will go once you reach out to them. Knowing it is up-to-date will also give you confidence.
Make a list of potential connections
Begin with your LinkedIn connections—who do they know? Begin by reaching out to people you know and asking them to make an introduction via email. It is then easy to respond to an introduction email with at thank you to your connection and a hello to the new connection.
Be specific in your ask
For example, “I would love to buy you a cup of coffee to learn more about ABC Corporation,” or “I am currently working in mergers and acquisitions and I’m looking to transition to cash management. As I see you made a similar transition several years ago, I you like to set up an informational interview to learn more about your experience.”
Arrive for face-to-face and virtual meetings well prepared. Learn as much about the person you are interviewing as possible. When you have pre-prepared questions (at least five more than you plan to ask), you can avoid awkward pauses—just refer to your list of questions.
It starts with a handshake
Always begin with a hand shake and a thank you for meeting with me. If you were introduced by someone bring up that person’s name, “Gerald is great, I met him in college and we often go on an annual fishing trip.” Then you can start with your questions.
There is no need to be nervous. Most people in networking situations are there to meet other people and to offer their assistance or advice. But when nerves do pop up, take a breath, refocus and move on. If you are in a group setting, step away to the rest room or go get a refreshment and then return willing to introduce yourself to the next person. When in a one-on-one meeting, refer to your list of questions and ask a new question.
Networking is a necessary element in career advancement, so don’t let nerves get in the way of potential.
Anne Converse Willkomm
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department Head of Graduate Studies