Networking for introverts may feel scary or intimidating. Introverts typically enjoy time being alone or with only one or two people rather than spending time with a large crowd. However, networking doesn’t have to mean being in a large crowd.
Rather, it can mean building strong individual relationships with people who you can learn from and even stay in touch with for mentorship over the course of your career.
Upon learning the effective methods to approach the process, you’ll realize that network is something you can get comfortable with and even excel at. It is a process that can be both authentic and impactful for your career growth even as an introvert.
9 Networking Tips for Introverts
Here are nine tips on how to meet new people and grow your network, even as an introvert.
1. Get Comfortable With the Idea: Goals and Purpose of Networking
First and foremost, remember that networking is simply a process whereby you can build relationships with and learn from professionals in your target roles and industries.
Here’s what else it’s for:
- To explore and clarify which career path would be the best fit for you by gleaning insights from their experience and vantage point.
- To swap tips, guidance, advice, resources, and learnings with one another.
- To understand more about an upskilling, educational, or learning opportunity that you’re considering pursuing.
- To understand more about a role, team, company, or industry that you’re interested in pursuing.
- To explore if they can provide a referral or introduction to someone else that may be helpful to you.
- To help you land your next role (80% of jobs are landed through networking.)
2. Dispel Your Myths and Hesitations
Know that while, yes, you are asking someone for their time and help, it is very much an acceptable, polite, and professional thing to do. While many people assume networking is sleazy, recognize that a majority of professionals employ this tool to learn and grow.
Someone will help you, and that person also asked someone else for help before, and at some point, you, too, will help someone by sharing your professional experience.
It is very much okay to have a “networking” or informational call with someone without having all the information. The very point of the call is to ask questions and learn.
People are often happy to help others and share their experiences. Worst case scenario, they either don’t respond to your inquiry or don’t have time, in which case, you can just find others who can help.
Just remember to show up in a prepared, thoughtful manner. Send outreach that is specific, clear, authentic, and shows that you will use their time wisely.
You know yourself the best. So, if you feel like it would help, try to ask for support from a coach, a mentor, or a peer to work through any uncertainties so that you can reach your goals.
3. Use Tools and Processes to Make It More Natural
Remember that you can use tools to organize the process, such as LinkedIn to identify the right people, or a spreadsheet to track where you’re at, who you spoke with, and when.
Luckily, you can use email professionals to ask for their time, which is likely a tool you’re already comfortable with. You can use the phone to have a 15 to 20-minute informational call rather than video or in person.
While you could send questions over email, try to challenge yourself to see if you can get comfortable over the phone, as you will learn higher-quality information and value that way.
Know that once you rip the bandage off and pursue just one networking call, you will get better and more confident over time.
4. Know Whom You Should Reach Out to and Network With
There are a few categories of connections you can leverage, and you can decide which of these you’re most comfortable with.
Be open-minded in considering your network’s network.
We often assume we know who people know. But you’d be surprised that if you were to ask a family member, a friend, a neighbor, an acquaintance, or someone from your gym or wine club to see who they may know in your target roles or industries, they may just be able to introduce you to someone.
You can also consider finding and using your alumni network on LinkedIn. It’s a very powerful tool where you’ll find people directly in your target roles or industries, and you’ll have something in common with these people, too.
People are much more interested to help when you have that warm connection by sharing an alma mater.
LinkedIn also makes it easier to look for mutual connections. That way, you can see directly if someone you know is connected to a target connection, and then you can kindly ask for an introduction.
Lastly, you can consider cold connections who you haven’t but would love to learn from. Try to find people around your level career-wise to make it more approachable for them to respond and want to help.
When we think about introverts and networking, we often worry about people thinking about what we’re doing. But remember that people are more often wrapped up in their own worlds for them to think about you.
The call is a very forward-looking concept—you learn from their experience and gather ideas for your path forward. Your background is almost irrelevant to the call itself, as it’s not an interview. Rather, it’s an opportunity to learn from that person.
5. Use Dedicated Platforms to Find Networking Connections
LinkedIn is an amazingly powerful research tool to find mutual connections, alumni, and more. You can also explore other creative avenues like virtual webinars or in-person industry events that are either relevant to your field or are just geared for networking.
Also, you can consider communities that are meant to connect people (e.g., Ladies Get Paid, Elpha, Reddit, Quora, etc) or other digital spaces where you can find industry-specific groups (e.g., Slack groups).
6. Learn to Properly Phrase Your Outreach to Networking Contacts
Learning to properly phrase your outreach is a key part of getting comfortable with networking.
Remember to write how you would talk. Be authentic and concise. Don’t overthink it. It can be a thoughtful yet brief note.
Also, focus on what you want to learn from that person and be specific. Try to list two to five topic areas that you could learn from them on a call. That way, they can see that you’re prepared and will use their time wisely.
Finally, have a call to action that will help them easily help you, whether you’re looking for a 15 to 20-minute call in the next week or two or an introduction from their network.
7. Learn to Prepare and Run Effective Informational Networking Calls
Learning to prepare for and run an effective informational networking call is another key component that will help any introvert feel confident while networking.
To prepare for a networking call, allot 20 to 30 minutes to reference any prior research, notes, or questions you already had jotted down about the target role or industry. You’ll also want to draft 10 to 15 questions in order of priority.
Ask yourself what questions you have as these will be the most valuable to ask.
Consider coming up with questions that relate to:
- How do they divide their time for their role
- Example projects and the roles of the various stakeholders involved
- How the role may vary across industries or companies
- How people typically break into the role
- Where people typically take their careers after this role
- The breakdown or structure of their team, department, and organization
- Reputable, worthwhile learning-based resources, opportunities, or programs
- Learning about the competitors or players in their industry
- Trends in the industry
When running an informational call, you should come prepared with an agenda. But if they mention something that sounds interesting, you can lean in to learn more about it.
You want to leverage their vantage point as they are exposed to things well beyond just the day-to-day of their role. Use the time to be authentic and honest with what concerns, hesitations, and questions you need help with.
When understanding a company’s culture, get specific about what elements of the culture you want to pinpoint and ask for examples so that you can get a more accurate read rather than a generic answer.
8. Follow Up With Your Networking Connections
Always send a thank you note within 24 hours after any call. It’s a great opportunity to reiterate what was valuable about the call and to follow up on any offers they mentioned to help you after the call, whether it’s another introduction, a referral, sending resources, or something else.
If you’re in job search mode, you can reconnect after 30 to 60 days to have another quick chat, share meaningful updates with them, and ask if they have updates on their end, as oftentimes, team changes and job opportunities open up quite quickly.
For general networking, you should reconnect with professionals who you connected well with at least twice per year, and if you find one great mentor, you can see if they’d be willing to chat with you regularly.
9. Reflect on What You Learned During Networking Calls
Whether you’re in a phase of career exploration or job search, self-reflection is key.
While you’re networking, you want to synthesize your learnings and reflections regularly. This way, you can pivot appropriately to continue learning and find professionals who are most aligned with your career goals.
Networking can be a useful, meaningful tool to help you progress in your career. Ask yourself what specifically feels uncomfortable, and find a supportive ear to see if you can unravel any limiting mindsets.
While hesitations around networking are common and your feelings are valid, they can be overcome so that you can reap the various benefits of networking and your career confidently.
Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU @soyhivan via unsplash.com