Recently, I was thinking about how hard it can be (actually, terrifying in many cases) for people who consider themselves to be introverts to even think about networking. Add networking during a job search to that and you have a situation which can send even the most meta-extraverts into hiding! Because 80%-90% of all jobs–regardless of an up or down economy–are found through networking, I am devoting two blogs to the topic of “Networking for Introverts”.
In order to offer meaningful content on this topic–not just “good ideas”–I wanted the perspective of someone who is steeped in networking every day, and considers himself to be a introvert. His name is Matt Youngquist, owner of Career Horizons in
JC: What is your advice to those who shy away (at best) and/or greatly fear (at worst) professional networking due to being an introvert by nature?
MY: You’ve either got to get over it, and learn how to build meaningful relationships, or you’ll have to make absolutely sure you’re in the top 10% of your occupational field and that your talent speaks for itself – since if you’re not networking actively, nobody else is going to be speaking for you! There are all kinds of incredible tools available now, however, to help introverts get over their networking fears. Social networking sites like LinkedIn allow you to build bridges, join groups, and connect to thousands of fascinating, relevant people in some very safe ways. And the e-mail medium spares you the awkwardness of a phone call or leaving a voicemail message, if that’s not your strength. It allows you to be very thoughtful, precise, and thorough in your communications with people, which is usually a gift that introverts tend to have. I should know. I’m one of them. I’m not shy, per se, but I’m absolutely terrible at small talk and definitely feel awkward in casual social situations, however well I might have learned how to hide this feeling. I live and die by LinkedIn, however, and love the fact that I can communicate with tons of people by e-mail instead of being put on the spot – when I might get tongue-tied or say something weird I’ll later regret.
JC: What are some of the key elements to experiencing success with networking, where success is defined anywhere from, “I was scared but went anyway” all the way to “Wow! I faked it till I made it and got a contract and a bunch of new friends”!
MY: Hmmm. Interesting question. And in fact, I’d say that the way to keep score in networking (especially in a job search context) is to focus on having as many INTERESTING CONVERSATIONS as possible in a given week, versus necessarily worrying about landing interviews or just meeting with people for the sake of meeting with him. How many neat people have you met recently? What fascinating insights have they shared? Or advice have they given? And do you find the time flying by when you have coffee with them, which is a sign things are going great, or does the clock drag on until somebody finally gets the courage to break things off with a brush-off like “Well, it was nice meeting you!” or “I’ll keep my eyes and ears open for you out there!” I train my clients, especially introverts, to recognize these signs of ineffective networking. Once people get the hang of it, though, something clicks and suddenly they’ll go from only knowing 10 people on the planet to knowing HUNDREDS of people and suddenly sending all kinds of people and referrals MY way, versus the other way around. It’s a very cool thing!
Matt is an avid blogger and writer on the topic of career and job search. His monthly newsletter is a goldmine for any kind of “verts”, always packed with relevent, cutting edge information on career sites, books, tools and actual job openings found through his expansive network. Matt can be reached at www.career-horizons.com.