Career experts constantly assert that networking is key in searching for a job. Job seekers, in turn, often lament that, despite extensive networking, they still haven't gotten a job. What's going on?
The disconnect comes from a fundamental paradox intrinsic to networking. The purpose of networking actually isn't "to get a job" - the purpose is to build relationships.
The reason career experts associate networking with getting a job is that people hire and do business with people they know and trust. Thus, expanding your networking contacts and deepening your relationships puts you in a position to become known and trusted by more people.
The advantage if you are an introvert is that your good listening skills and preference for deeper understanding will help build relationships. Even if you're shy, you can shift the spotlight to the other person through questions that will draw them out. As you learn about the circumstances and needs of others, you can position yourself as a resource for them.
Networking is a lot more comfortable for those who are introverted or shy if you don't have to focus on what sometimes feels like shameless self-promotion but instead can focus on the other person.
This is where you can really shine if you're an introvert, because you can pay attention to deeper one-on-one relationships (which are less of an energy drain for introverts than group encounters) and get to know more about an individual.
Do some research on the other person to build a stronger foundation - as you contemplate about what you discover, you'll be capitalizing on an introverted strength while also recharging your batteries. Think strategically about how you can apply this knowledge to be of help to your networking contact.
No matter how badly you need a job, concentrate on making networking connections in which you can give to others. Share information that they may need, introduce them to contacts that may be valuable in their professional pursuits.
Find the common ground for a solid professional relationship, and nurture it over time - eventually one of those relationships is likely to bear fruit. "Give" in order to "get."
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.