From business lunches and cocktails with clients to conferences and seminars, networking can be a tiring task. It is, however, a necessity for people looking to find a job (and grow your career).
This is bad news, of course, for those of us that are more introverted, as even the thought of a business event or crowded conference can be exhausting and panic-inducing. What can an introvert do to get ahead? They can use their natural strengths to network in a way that is most effective (and comfortable) for them.
To find out how, I spoke with Shirin Khamisa, Career Counsellor and the founder of Careers by Design Coaching.
Follow the two-thirds rule
“A good rule of thumb is to do what’s comfortable two-thirds of the time and stretch beyond your comfort zone the rest of the time,” says Khamisa.
An introvert’s energy source is like a fuel tank, and using up all your fuel in networking situations you aren’t comfortable with is likely to be discouraging and ineffective.
For the best impact, stick to the types of networking you’re comfortable with most of this time. For introverts, this might be online networking (which could mean using LinkedIn, starting a blog, establishing a professional Twitter presence), building on already existing relationships, taking a class, or attending smaller social events at work.
The rest of time, make the effort to step outside your comfort zone: work on turning those online connections into in-person ties, go to a conference you’re interested in, or look for a networking event taking place in your city.
Set mini goals
There’s nothing worse than going to a networking event because you feel like you should go, hanging out by the coffee stand or bar wondering what to do, and then leaving without having made any connections.
To make the most of a networking situation, set a goal, achieve that goal, and then get out of there.
“A worthy goal could be meeting one or two new people or reconnecting with a couple of existing contacts. Two meaningful conversations are better than collecting 20 business cards,” says Khamisa.
Do it you own way
“Introverts need to give themselves permission to re-define networking and do it their own way. Ask yourself: What social situations do I thrive in? What energizes me?” suggests Khamisa.
Networking doesn’t have to look like networking. If you’re passionate about a cause or have a special skill to offer, consider volunteering for a community group or offering to speak with students at a local university or college.
Networking doesn’t have to be related to what you do for work, either. Join a team, take a course unrelated to your work or start to pay more attention to the loose connections in your everyday life (people you talk to at the gym, in the elevator, at the coffee shop). You never know where you might meet the next person who will help you land that dream job or take your career to the next level, but you can be sure they’re not in your living room at home.
By sticking mainly to what you’re comfortable with, making networking goals and stepping outside your comfort zone when it counts, you can find a formula for networking that works for you.
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