Most people hate networking events. If you’re an introvert, you probably avoid them like the plague. But even extraverts can become introverts when faced with a room full of people they don’t know. Networking is a bit like the medicine your doctor gives you: it may taste bad, but you know it’s good for you.
By now, I hope you know that networking is your key to getting a new or better job. I’ll give you a slightly different twist on the reason for this: most hiring managers aren’t too secure about their hiring abilities, so they’re predisposed to take suggestions from others. Sometimes hiring managers are just too lazy to look for the right person. And sometimes the person who’s networked into the organization showed so much imagination and fortitude that they deserve to be hired. (Hint: that should be you.)
So, let me share a basic truth about resume reviews, tests, and all the other screening “stuff” people do. These tests are designed to predict failure, not success. (And that goes for SATs and all the other tests you’ve taken over the years.) If we could predict success as easily as we can predict failure, we’d all be rich.
What does that have to do with networking, or introverts? Most of you aren’t going to get jobs by answering ads on Craigslist or trolling through HotJobs or Monster, which is where introverts like to hang out. The best way to get a job (or a better one) is to get directly to the hiring manager and plead your case. And one of the best ways to do that is by broadening your personal network at events, meetings, etc.
If you agree with that, but you’re still feeling shy, here are some suggestions:
- Try to pick a networking venue that meets regularly. Go there a few times – it’s OK to be quiet in the first couple of meetings, but eventually, you’re going to recognize other “regulars,” and you’ll feel generally more comfortable. You’ll become more outgoing automatically.
- Make sure you know something about the topic of the meeting – do your homework first! When I first started going to SVASE (Silicon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs) meetings, I didn’t understand much of what people were discussing – but that changed by the 2nd or 3rd meeting, because I noted the hot topics, and researched them before going back.
- Understand the dynamics of small groups – it’s easy to talk to somebody who’s standing alone. Not too bad to get into a group of two people. Much harder to get a discussion going with three people.
- Live by the rules… I’ve written before about the six seconds you have to introduce yourself. You’ve probably been taught all about the elevator pitch, but that’s not how you introduce yourself! You need a good personal branding statement. Mine is: “Hi, I’m Walt Feigenson, and I help you get found on the Internet.” If yours is crisp and interesting, you will be invited to give your elevator pitch (and keep it to under 30 seconds!).
- Don’t set your standards too high. Some people will network with everyone in a room, and some with just a few. It’s OK to do whatever is comfortable for you. If you meet 20-30 people in one event, you simply can’t connect with any one of them on a deep enough level to be meaningful.
- Try to end your meet up with an action item (if the person seems interesting). This could be something as simple as a follow-up email or an oral invitation to link on LinkedIn.
- When you get home after the event, make a note on each card you collected about where you met the person. Select the people you want to follow up with, and,,, well, you should know the rest.
Here are a couple of useful ideas for anybody, not just introverts:
- Put your picture on your business cards. It’s much easier for somebody you meet to remember your face than your name. You may think this is hokey, but it works.
- Wear your name tag on your right side, not your left. This does two things: 1) it makes it far easier for your new contact to see your name tag when you shake hands, and 2) it’s a subtle indicator that you really know something about networking.
One last thought. There’s more than one kind of networking. I do a lot of public speaking, even though I’m an introvert. For some reason, I’m more comfortable talking to a roomful of people than networking one-on-one. So my networking is through public speaking. One of the key benefits of that is that people come to you for networking, so it’s really easy to establish new friendships. There might be an analog for you, perhaps public service of some kind…Find what works, and make it happen!
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