As I, and just about any other career professional, speaks about getting a job, the subject of networking comes up. This usually sets people onto fits and squirming. Some people naturally network like they’re breathing, and others act like they would rather pull their eyelashes out one by one than network.
I’ve found that this is often the case because people have this preconceived notion as to what networking looks like. Usually it’s the really slimy guy that shakes every hand in the room and gets as many business cards as possible. This guy is not interested in getting to know anyone but just looking for contacts to use later for his own benefit.
Let me tell you know: This is not Networking!
Networking is about the mutually beneficial social connections that you have with people. The example above is more like a drive through trip to McDonald’s: very fleeting and only memorable if they were a problem.
Real networking is getting to know people who have similar interests to you so you can share knowledge and show yourself in the best light. You do the same thing if you’re looking to get more involved in the model airplane club or getting into the latest startup. You want to impress people with what you’ve got to offer, and different people impress in different ways:
- Extroverts impress by energy
- Introverts impress by focus
To use an analogy that I find striking, extroverts are like bombs. The make a big noise and everyone knows they have arrived (speaking as an extrovert!). Introverts are more like a augur drill. They are on and consistent but they keep going. It is with the consistency of message and focus on particular people that really is the strength of introverts and make them shine.
If you know what your goal is, and continually work every angle (usually behind the scenes!), introverts can usually build trust very effectively. Here’re some examples of how introverts can network better than extroverts:
- At a “networking” event, figure out in advance what information you want to gain, and ask the staff at the reception table if they know anyone who has information on that and see if you can get an introduction.
- If there is someone who is a thought leader in your field who is writing in numerous social media, follow and like them, read up on their thoughts. You will then be knowledgeable enough to either retweet, comment, write about, and in other ways make yourself known in a subtle way. Keep at it!
- Ask for individual introductions to people who may know more people in the chosen field than you do, and might have great insights. You might have to go through the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” to get to the right person who is a hogging manager, but your persistence will pay off!
Note to Extroverts: These work for you too!
Get out there and practice. It’s the only way to get better at it. Make your 100 mistakes as soon as you can, so that you can have mastery over it.
So, what are the ways you network that are comfortable for you?