How to Network When You’re Not Outgoing

Josette writes:
I’ve read many articles that networking is the most effective job-search tool.
I really want to change careers but I don’t know how to go about networking.
I’ve been stuck in low-end low-paying jobs because I don’t know how to network.
I want to get out of the dead-end rut badly. Currently I’m a temporary
clerical worker.
I want to network badly but it’s hard for me because I’m not a very outgoing person.
Where do I start? What’s the best way for a person who’s not very outgoing to
start a network?

The Career Doctor responds:
My partner Katharine Hansen is an introvert — which some people find
strange when they discover she’s written a book on networking. Anyone
can do networking. Is it easier for extraverts? Of course it is but it’s not
their exclusive domain.
(By the way her book A
Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market
has an entire
chapter on networking for the shy.)
Before I begin let’s start with refocusing networking. Networking is simply
about building relationships with other people. It’s about establishing rapport
and building a mutually beneficial relationship.
So let me offer you some tips — tips for all the shy job-seekers out there –
on becoming better at networking.
First start off networking in a comfortable setting with people you know.
Perhaps a community or religious group. A professional group is another option
but since you say you’re stuck in a low-end job I am guessing you may not
currently be a member of a professional group.
Second consider doing some networking via the written word. Email and postal
notes to former colleagues professors and alumni are a great way to re-establish
connections and build a network.
Third when you know you are attending a networking event prepare ahead of time.
Use your strengths. Many introverts are great listeners so stop worrying about
dominating the conversation with witty stories and instead prepare a couple of
questions. All an extravert needs is one question to keep the conversation going
for a while! Ask questions such as “what kind of work do you do?” or “what are
some of the favorite parts of your job” or “tell me more about your company.”
Fourth work on your body language. Often introverts avoid eye contact and
appear disinterested – so you should make sure you are sending the right
non-verbal messages.
Fifth set goals for yourself — small networking steps first — and then celebrate
each goal you achieve.
Learn more in about networking techniques in the
networking section of
Quintessential Careers.
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