Q. I am an introvert. I will never be an extrovert. I understand the need to network to find a job. Help me find a way to make this work.
A. You have realized the most important part about networking – most people find their new job through this method. As an introvert, you are not alone; close to 50 percent of the U.S. population identifies as an introvert. Introverts can’t shy away from all networking if they want to be successful in the job search.
The extremes of networking can ignite fear for those not comfortable with the process. The visual of running from person to person in a ballroom of 500 people is enough to make even the most extroverted person run away. Much of the advice on how to network is geared toward extroverts, but effective introverted networkers have learned to identify and play to their strengths.
Reframe the idea of networking; build a team of advocates to maximize job search success. These Job Search Advocates (networking contacts) can help you research, provide market and industry information, and introduce you to other advocates. You can approach these people one at a time and if youare in a group setting, remember that each relationship is built one at a time.
Most initial work can be done through phone and email, but face-to-face meetings are the goal as this is where authentic interaction occurs. Start slowly and stay in tune with how much activity it takes to be successful; plan on picking up the pace. Call people you know first and see if they will help you meet target people at target companies which you have already prepared. Email introductions copying both parties work very well, and you always have the responsibility to initiate contact. Respond to the email thanking both participants and offer to schedule a meeting at their convenience. Offer a few times and days over the next few weeks. Plan on no more than 30 minutes and be thrilled if the meeting lasts an hour.
Be prepared to ask questions about the person you meet about his or her background and success. Develop a list to refer to so you can put yourself at ease. Be prepared to talk about your own background as well. Many introverts want to make sure they have a prepared script for initial meetings. The recommended format is who I am, what I can do, where I was, what I want to do and how you can help. So I might say, “I’m Elaine Varelas, I am a career consultant with over 20 years experience (don’t add too many years!) specializing in executive career transition. I hope to find other opportunities where I can work with senior executives and I’d appreciate your advice on people I should talk to.”
Take notes on each piece of information, referral or introduction. Even if you cannot picture yourself taking this advice, keep the conversation moving forward. At the end of the meeting, ask if there is any way you can help the person. Most people do not do that as part of networking and this will help you stand out in a positive way. Thank the person and ask him or her if it would be OK to circle back and follow up on the advice you received or the introductions made.
Evaluate your process and continue to do more. As far as the massive networking events, consider volunteering. With a focus on helping others, you may find it easier to have great conversations that add to your network.
-Elaine Varelas, Managing Partner, Keystone Partners
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