Networking Tips For Introverts
Two weeks ago, @Ugotalksalot asked me if I had any advice about networking for introverts. This is a great question in light of the fact that networking is a necessary component of any career plan. Networking is an avenue to meet people, build relationships and hopefully realize one's professional and personal goals (career growth, personal development, expanding your professional network etc.).
Networking is a social activity that facilitates the exchange of ideas, knowledge, professional and personal contacts, as well as build relationships. An introvert on the other hand is someone who enjoys being alone, and thrive on solitary moments with themselves and their thoughts. At first glance, networking might seem challenging to an introvert, but in reality it can be simplified and tailored to the temperament of the individual. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Determine the purpose for networking:
What is the reason behind the desire to reach out to someone? Are you looking for a job, advice, information, mentor, etc.? Determining the purpose for networking will help streamline the process in regards to who you are reaching out to, how you will reach them, and where to find them.
Start with the familiar:
This is my go-to for every networking move I make. We all have friends, family members and acquaintances who have a wealth of knowledge that may be beneficial to us. Start with the people you know and extend your professional circle through contacts and information that they may offer.
For instance, during my job search, I had done my research on an organization I was interested in; found someone I felt I could reach out to, and sent an email. During a random discussion with my brother about my progress, I told him about the person I reached out to; it turns out he knew her sister. He introduced me to this young lady, who in turn introduced me to her sister whom I ended up meeting in person. Not only did I make new friends, but I also met a professional whose advice and interest in my professional development has helped my career pursuits in numerous ways.
Define your approach:
How do you intend to reach out/network with your targeted professional? Use tools at your disposal such as emails, referrals, professional networking events, social/family gatherings and regular hangouts with friends.
I personally start with an email because that is what I am most comfortable with. I write a very brief and professional email that introduces me, what I do, how I heard about the person and why I am reaching out. I politely ask for some type of meeting via phone, in person, or continuous correspondence via email. My email ends with an appreciation for their time and a desire to hear back at their earliest convenience. Where possible, I have asked my friends for a professional referral and introduction, and follow up accordingly.
Set outreach goals:
How much information do you need, and who can give it to you? How many people will you reach out to? What do you want to achieve with each correspondence? Do you want a phone chat, an in-person meeting, a professional introduction or referral? Setting outreach goals allows you to measure the outcome of your efforts.
Quick tip – try to leave every interaction with a name and contact of someone who you can reach out to, or an organization you can research for further information. You can do this by asking the person you are speaking with if they will be willing to connect you with someone who can extend the current conversation. Ask nicely and with a smile; and remember to say thank you, and follow up with a thank you note/email.
This is an often neglected step in the networking process. Following up is a good way to ensure the continuity of a relationship. Reach out from time to time to say hello, provide some progress and generally keep the conversation going. This is a good way to show that you are interested in more than just a leg up in whatever moves you are making. It also creates an avenue for future partnerships and collaboration.
My last and most important tip is always remember to say THANK YOU.
While the question was centered on networking for introverts, I think that these ideas are useful to everyone as they are simple and easy steps that can be tailored to any temperament. Have you tried to network in the past? Share you stories on your approach, challenges, and outcomes. Which of my tips have worked for you? Which one will you incorporate into your outreach? Let me know in the comment section.