What do introverts do best? We think. A lot. And we can use that strength to help with one of the job search tasks that many introverts dislike the most, networking.
How can introverts turn their preference for thinking into an advantage in networking? By allowing ourselves the time to anticipate the networking encounter or event and plan for it. Here are three simple steps that can reduce the discomfort and increase the effectiveness of your networking activities.
Most introverts don't like small talk, but those superficial-seeming topics enable people to make an initial connection, and they're very handy in a large group event of any sort.
The topics can be facts about the event itself (the location, the occasion, the speaker, whether your conversation partner is a first-timer or frequent attendee, an unusual name or item of clothing), non-controversial news events, or even the weather, just to get the ball rolling.
Once you've exchanged information with someone for a few minutes, be ready with a transition to enable you to move along to meet someone else. Using the rest room or refreshing your drink are two standard transitions people use.
Do some research about the person or people you expect to encounter, whether you're attending a large event or meeting someone one-on-one.
Get a list of attendees if it's a professional event or find out what you can about other guests, if it's more of a social event. This information can help the flow of conversation and become the basis for more meaningful exchanges.
Use the information you've gathered from your research to focus on specifics that you'd like to know more about. By having a few specific questions or themes you'd like to discuss, you'll fuel the conversation and enrich the relationship.
By preparing for networking conversations, you'll minimize the awkward moments (not knowing what to say) and maximize your effectiveness (having productive conversations).
Additional advice from Wendy Gelberg to help introverts succeed with their networking, including (from the list on the right):
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.