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Introvert’s Guide to Networking

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Getting a job is easy. Getting a good job is hard. FINDING a great job is really difficult. Most jobs are not often advertised, usually going to insiders who have an ‘in’ with the hiring manager. I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there right now saying “No, that can’t be true. Everyone has to have an equal opportunity …” I’m sorry, that isn’t the way the world works.

When a really good job opens up, the hiring manager already knows who they want in that spot – whether it is someone on the team at a lower grade that could be promoted to the position, Bob from accounting, or the VP’s golf partner’s son Skippy. By the way, Skippy’s dad regularly shoots a 68, so the VP doesn’t want to lose him as a partner.

I am a natural introvert. It is difficult to cope with, especially when I’m trying to get a job. My biggest issue is leveraging my contacts to get a job – why? Because it is so hard for me to make new friends, that I protect that friendship from anything that might destroy it. I don’t know if this is the way it is for other introverts, but it is how I feel.

Smile

My biggest tip – which may seem small, but it is truly the most important – smile. Smiling has a contagious effect. If you have a warm, personable smile throughout a conversation, your audience will identify with you positively. My favorite way to keep a smile going is to frequently think about my happiest memory – not for long, but enough to energize the smile on my face.

A good smile is like the lubrication for a conversation. Your partner will see that you are happy to talk with them and will try to continue the conversation well after they would with someone who was not so happy. Don’t overdo it though, a creepy smile or an over the top happy person can also chase people off.

Engage

Introverts have a well practiced ability that could be a hindrance to extroverts. By listening actively, your conversation partner knows you are engaged in the conversation. Active listening means to basically keep your attention on the conversation partner. It isn’t just nodding your head and saying “uh-huh” every once in a while. Make eye contact. Interject with a response at certain times. Laugh at the jokes and gasp with shock when needed.

Ask questions

This is what keeps the conversation going. Make sure you know your partner’s name and use it frequently to ask important questions about them. “Bob, what do you do for a living?” The sweetest sound in the world is the sound of your own name. Use that and the questions to keep them talking. If you are not much of a talker, this will help you make your partner remember you.

Get to the point

At some point, you will need to move on with your life from a conversation. You are here for networking so get this guy’s digits! Let them know you are interested in working with them and ask for their card. If they don’t have a card, get an email address.

If you aren’t interested in working with them, they might be interested in working with you or have someone they would like to introduce you to. There are any number of different scenarios that this could go through that will result in a positive experience.

Be Thankful

Always thank the other person for talking to you and for any assistance they have given. If they have provided a contact, try to reciprocate as a gesture to let them know that you will be a worthwhile contact for them as well. If the conversation was memorable, make sure you let them know you appreciate their discussion on that topic. Easy stuff!

Practice

Business networking for people who hate networking can be difficult, especially when you are an introvert. By utilizing these tips as a framework for a conversation, the interaction should become easier and more fluid with practice. Get out and network often! Look for any opportunity then give yourself a reward for following up. The more you practice, the easier it will become and people may stop looking at you as an introvert and instead as a connector.

Be Real

The last tip I have is to be yourself. I’ve said it before and will say it again – if you don’t show your real self, people will see right through it. You will be uncomfortable and will not react the way you normally would had you been yourself in the first place. If you start faking it, it will lead to an unknown place for you. Don’t be fake.

Thank you for reading and please if you have any criticism – constructive or destructive – please feel free to leave it in the comments below!

Be Real!

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