Networking events can be scary for even the most extroverted person, so for introverts the thought of it can be even more challenging. However, networking is a crucial part of the job search and one’s career development as a whole. Introverts should have a much easier time with the networking process by utilizing these helpful tips:
Don’t discount your prep work
Going in well prepared can really help with the anxiety of having to talk to a group of strangers. Before you go to your next networking event, spend some time thinking about what it is you are hoping to gain from the event. Then prepare some questions that you’ll ask others in order to achieve that goal. Also, make sure you have some things prepared for you to share as you can’t rely on the other person to carry the entire conversation. Practicing these questions and answers before you go can help with your confidence once you’re actually there. If you’re worrying less about what to say, you’ll be able to focus more on listening!
Utilize the buddy system
If you don’t have to do these events solo, then don’t! Try and bring a colleague or friend with you so at least you’ll have a safety net if you’re finding it hard to connect with others. This type of backup can help make bigger events less intimidating. If you are unable to bring someone else with you, try and make at least one solid connection early on so at least you’ll have someone to sit with and who can help introduce you to others.
Use technology to your advantage
If a guest list is available before the event, use LinkedIn or Google+ to get some more information about them. Knowing their background will make it easier to come up with relevant questions and conversation starters. Finding things in common can also help form a more memorable connection and knowing their background info beforehand can help make that happen.
Set a goal and follow up
Before the event, set a goal for making connections and don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. It’s okay to start small but as you get more comfortable with networking, try and increase your goal for making connections. It’s okay not to spend a lot of time with your connections at the networking event. Most introverts feel more comfortable in more intimate, one-on-one settings. Once you feel like you’ve made a solid connection with someone, politely break it off and ask for their business card so you can follow up with them. This way you can continue strengthening the connection, but in a setting you feel more comfortable in, such as one-on-one at a coffee shop. Just make sure you actually do follow up with them!
Confidence is key
Networking is simply developing relationships and sharing information and resources for mutual benefit. Get rid of the notion that you’re there just because you need something from someone else. This type of mindset is belittling to yourself and can make you feel guilty about trying to make connections. Instead, focus on the fact that everyone is there to try and gain something and that when you share your professional expertise, you position yourself as someone who has knowledge or resources that might be valuable to others!
By Njyhalo Pavati, RIT Office of Career Services Graduate Assistant