“I don’t know that many people,” introverts often say, as we defend our reluctance to incorporate networking into our job search campaign.
On closer examination, though, we discover that we know more people than we originally realized, and we really can network more effectively than we might have expected.
Unlike many extroverts, introverts are very selective with regard to the people we consider friends. We use the label “acquaintances” for the many other people in our world, those we don’t know all that well, haven’t really had a meaningful conversation with. Consequently, we sometimes overlook that larger category of people as appropriate networking contacts.
To effectively network, we need to understand who, exactly, are our acquaintances.
Who is in your network?
Naturally, friends and family come to mind first as the obvious members of our network. But look beyond that group and you’ll find lots of other people.
Here are some to get you started:
- Co-workers (a category that encompasses colleagues, managers, subordinates)
- People you interact with regularly in your job (clients, vendors, and anyone else you cross paths with in the course of your work)
- Friends of friends
- Professionals you do business with (for example, physician, dentist, attorney, accountant, insurance agent, banker, not to mention your very well connected hairdresser/barber, etc.)
- Members of a religious congregation you are affiliated with
- Fellow participants in your daily activities (these can include people who work out at the gym at the same time you do, others who volunteer with you at an organization or cause you care about, parents of your kids’ friends who attend the same events you attend, etc.)
And, as you go about your daily life, pay attention to the other people you interact with frequently – more acquaintances who make up your network.
[To expand your network, read How to Meet New People.]
Knowing a lot of people, even somewhat superficially, can lead to valuable networking opportunities. Think about the ways that you can engage with those people and reach out to them. Here are some possibilities:
- Share information.
Contact people with information that would be valuable or interesting to them (this can be an effective way to reconnect with people you’ve lost touch with). A “thinking of you” gesture gets you back on their radar screen, and prompts renewed interest in the relationship.
- Offer praise.
Acknowledge an accomplishment or a skill (LinkedIn can be a useful tool in this regard)
- Engage in small talk.
Yes, I know, we introverts generally dislike small talk! But it’s the ice breaker that can lead to the more in-depth conversations we prefer. Job seekers have shared countless stories of conversations that started out with openers like “What pretty flowers,” or “The hockey team is having a good season” and ended up with job leads. The job leads sometimes came after follow-up conversations, and not in the initial one, but they came nevertheless.
A reasonable amount of effort can have a large payoff, strengthening and enlarging your network.
Remember that people do business with – and hire – those they know and trust; reconnect with and nurture relationships with the wider array of acquaintances in your world.
More Information About Job Networking
- Job-Hunt’s Guide to Job Search Networking
- Job-Hunt’s Guide to Social Media and Job Search
- Job-Hunt’s Guide to LinkedIn for Job Search
Additional advice from Wendy Gelberg to help introverts succeed with their networking, including (from the list on the right):
- 15-Minute Guide to Job Networking for Introverts – free ebook by Wendy Gelberg (new browser window)
- 5 Tips for Introverts to Keep Your Network Alive
- Introverts’ Guide to Large Networking Events
- The Real Goal of Networking
- The Art of Listening
- How to Meet New People
- Successful Follow-Up
About the author…
Wendy Gelberg is a Career Navigator at JVS CareerSolution in Boston and author of The Successful Introvert: How to Enhance Your Job Search and Advance Your Career. She is a certified career coach and resume writer whose expertise is in helping people who are uncomfortable “tooting their own horn.” Wendy writes resumes, gives workshops, coaches individuals, and writes articles and blogs on all aspects of the job search process. Samples of her resumes and career advice appear in over 20 books. Wendy has been a career coach and resume writer for over 15 years. She has been an introvert her whole life. Contact Wendy at firstname.lastname@example.org.