“The number one skill for success in the twenty first century is the ability to talk to other people. If we don’t connect with others, there is really no next step: no referrals, no job offers, no promotions, no alliances. … The only goal of your initial interaction is to have the next interaction. Period.”
Joanne Black, No More Cold Calling
Networking is about building and maintaining relationships. To be successful in your job search it is about getting noticed and being remembered. This can be achieved by taking a more aggressive approach to networking and meeting lots of people or by a more subtle and planned out approach, which is the one favored by people who tend to be more introverted by nature. The approach you take is best determined by your natural personality. The terms introvert and extrovert refer to the social preference and not social capability. Our personality tends to be either introverted or extroverted. Both have strengths and weaknesses. There are advantages to both and one is not better than the other, just different.
Introverts vs. Extroverts
Introverts tend to be quite sensitive to their environment and to people around them. Until they feel comfortable, they are inclined to listen before they talk too much.
Extroverts, on the other hand, are at ease with small talk and have little trouble in making conversation with people they have only just met.
While introverts prefer to think things through before saying anything, extroverts think things through by talking. Although extroverts may have an advantage in that they are at ease in making conversation even with people they have only just met, introverts have an advantage when it comes to being able to listen especially well. This allows them to become very interested in one on one conversation with others and asking questions.
Just because people are introverted, does not mean they are anti social. It just means that they are more comfortable once they are familiar with the people they meet. They prefer to have conversations that have a purpose and that tend to go deep rather than wide. They would rather have meaningful conversations with a few people than meet as many people as possible so as to have brief and superficial conversations with them, As an introvert, this would just drain their energy. Instead, introverts would rather have a plan before going out to network and to be selective in who and where they network.
Where an extroverted person might want to collect the business card of everyone they meet, an introvert is further ahead by being selective in which people it is worth following up with.
Networking vs. Cold Calling
Networking is very much about finding out how to help others as well as how others can help you. For the introvert, asking and not telling is the way to begin a conversation. Questions that can be asked when first meeting someone at a networking event could include: what brings you to this event today, what did you find interesting in listening to the Presenter today and what are you finding particularly challenging in the world of finding work these days? Beginning your questions with the words what, where, and why encourages the other person to give longer and more detailed answers.
Because introverts are more inclined to talk once they feel comfortable and are familiar with the people they are with, networking is probably the best approach rather than cold calling. This means planning where you intend to network such as organizations with similar interests to yourself such as you professional association.
As an introvert, instead of cold calling, it is suggested that you introduce yourself with a letter first mentioning the person who referred you. This way the ice has been broken when you call because you can then say you are following up to the letter you sent previously.
Job Search Tips for Introverts
As an introvert, you will also favor people approaching you first instead of you making the first move. This can be achieved by building your profile such as using LinkedIn, which is a social media site used by professionals. Joining an online discussion group can also be a great way to meet people.
Essentially introverts are much more comfortable interacting with others when they have prepared sufficiently in advance. Unlike extroverts, they are not very comfortable with just “making it up as they go along.” For that reason, it is useful to plan exactly what you want to say when you introduce yourself.
For introverts, it is important to pace yourself and balance preparing to network with following through with action. By keeping this in mind, you won’t feel so overwhelmed and drained of energy by trying to meet too many people at once. It is also important to focus your energy by being selective in what and who you follow up with. Concentrate on what has meaning to you.
Because we enjoy research, use this to advantage by researching your job search sectors carefully including key people to contact and articles that might have been written about certain companies etc. Although introverts tend to want to collect as much information as possible before taking action so that they feel confident that they will know what to do and what to say, at some point action in meeting others needs to be taken. It is important to know when one has enough information to take such action. For both introverts and extraverts it is keeping a balance between reflecting on what needs to be done to get ready for job search and the actual job search itself.
Most jobs are found through networking. It is important to focus on one’s search. This will not only help you in your job development, but it will also help others you approach for help; once they know more of what it is you are looking for, the easier it will be for them to help you find it.
Sometimes for the introverted type, it is a matter of re-framing job development in one’s mind by looking at it differently.
“[Job search] has always been a not-fun process, but when I changed it into a research project, I was able to turn it into something I could handle. A research project is the kind of intellectual area that I’m comfortablewith.”
Patty Lebau (teacher), The Successful Introvert