Your pulse quickens, your palms grow cold and clammy and you can’t quite catch your breath.
After months of work figuring out your dream career, today’s the day you begin … NETWORKING. And the very idea fills you with dread.
Now, you could give in to your fear, practise classic avoidance tactics, forgo networking all together and stay with the traditional career-search path of applying for advertised positions, whether online or in person.
Don’t go into hiding just yet
But career counsellors and coaches will tell you that by doing that you’re missing up to 80 per cent of opportunities. And I know you don’t want to do that.
So it’s time to gather your courage and dive in.
As a bit of an introvert, my personal breakthrough around the fear of networking began when I decided to simply call it something else.
Rename and reframe
“Networking” to me evoked all kinds of intimidating scenes, like high-powered breakfast meetings with big crowds of high-energy people vigorously shaking hands, tossing around business cards and boasting about their accomplishments.
For me, a person who loves people and especially loves relating to them in meaningful ways, thinking of networking as “communication and connection” turned my attitude around.
What’s in it for them?
It also helped to approach this relationship-building endeavour as one in which I’m not just asking for help; I may have something to offer as well. Being of service to others makes us feel good and also helps build social capital, in that often people remember how you helped them and want to return the favour.
What I also came to accept and embrace was the fact that without being an off-the-charts extravert I actually have exactly what it takes to network successfully, and chances are you do, too.
As an introvert, what do you bring to networking?
- You listen more than you talk.
- You honestly value the relationships you are building.
- You are typically sincere and genuine in your interactions, which will always make you stand out in a crowd.
- You value QUALITY over QUANTITY, therefore you attend only one or two perfect-for-you networking events per month.
- You tend to enjoy research, which you’ll use to not only carefully select those one or two events, but also to prepare for them by finding out who will be there, what the format is and just how much talking you’ll be expected to do. (A prepared introvert is a happy one.)
- You shine in one-on-one conversation, and what better way to showcase what you have to offer and learn more about an organization?
- Yes, you shine one-on-one, but you’re EVEN BETTER in writing, so when the time comes to follow up on those great conversations you had, you’ll be way ahead of the game in maintaining connections through a gracious email followup or handwritten note.
The virtual handshake
Remember, too, that today’s networking occurs in large part in the virtual world, another big plus for introverts.
While it may take a lot to get you to one of those breakfast meetings, setting up a savvy social media profile and connecting with people that way should be a relative cinch.
Building a network through such sites as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook allows you to reach out to individuals as well as large groups that share your professional interests, and maintaining those networks doesn’t even require that you leave the house.
Through various online platforms you can broaden your network, spread the word about what you do and find out about opportunities often before they’re shared with the general public.
So get out there — on your own terms, and in your own way — and start connecting, building relationships … yes, networking. You’ll be surprised how easy it is once you put your own personal stamp on the process.
And if you want someone to practise with, need some coaching or up-to-the-minute tips on how to leverage those virtual networks, I’m always here to help.