Networking for introverts:
A 5-step plan
college I was such an introvert that when I was dragged to parties I brought a
book. It was a lonely existence, but the pain of having to talk to people in an
unstructured environment was much too great.
So I was shocked a
few years ago when someone told me, "Job hunting is easier for you than most people
because you could sell yourself to anyone." That comment was testament to the
fact that I had recognized you can't get what you want in life without networking.
Even though my natural instinct is to sit home and read, I worked very hard to
learn how to talk to people. Luckily for me, books are a great resource in this
I read everything
I could find. I read that most introverts are scared they'll say something stupid
or have nothing to say at all (both applied to me). So I read up on ways to feel
self-confident in a room full of strangers and come up with things to say when
I felt intimidated. (Here's a recommendation: "You Are the Message" by Roger Ailes.)
I learned that people who are good at networking are interested
in other people. And they are good storytellers. After that, I was able to go
almost anywhere and talk with people. Good talkers recognize that there's something
interesting about every person, and it's their job to get them talking about it.
But you can't just bombard people with questions. You also need to reveal things
about yourself. The best way is by telling fun and interesting stories that make
you look good.
Not everyone can do this, though. After I had
been dating my husband for about six months, I watched him print out a spreadsheet
of names and phone numbers. "What's this?" I asked.
networking list," he replied.
"But you never call anyone. Ever."
know, but networking is important, and I read that the first step is to have a
It was an extremely detailed list. For every name,
there was a phone number and description of the person. For example, "Bennie Conover.
High school music teacher -- dead." Or my favorite, "Penelope Trunk. Girlfriend."
But my husband is an introvert, someone who loves details
but hates talking to people. If you're similarly introverted, you can still network
even though you'll never get excited about going to parties and learning interesting
things about each person in the room. These tips can help.
e-mail. Nowadays, you don't have to speak to contacts. You can write and
rewrite your message until it's right. And you don't have to worry about saying
something stupid because the person caught you off guard. Of course, you lose
the intimacy of a personal meeting, but you can sometimes compensate for this
by sending an extra e-mail or two.
everything. When something is published about someone you know, send a
congratulatory e-mail. Incessant reading means getting gossip without having to
gossip. Just be sure to act on it.
to parties rather than dinners. If you're like most introverts, the problem
isn't the quantity of people, it's having to show up at all. You can kill more
birds with one stone by making one of your rare social appearances in front of
lots of people. And think ahead: Have a few things prepared and ready to say to
For instance, send leads to jobseekers you know. You don't have to talk to them,
but they'll remember the favor and view you as a friend. My husband maintains
a list of specialized job sites that he sends to friends who have recently lost
jobs. They're grateful for his help and the time it saves them, while my husband
is grateful that he only has to research job sites instead of having to talk to
Send New Year's cards.
Sending cards at year-end is tantamount to saying, "You're someone I care about."
So send cards generously. If you can, include a short note to each person. Sure,
it's a struggle to find things to say, but since it's early November, you have
two months to think. Write a few cards each day, and when you're stuck for words,
remember the key to good networking: Be interested in other people and talk about
yourself in interesting ways. Networking is one of those long-range, money-in-the-bank
types of things; you never know when something you say will have big return. So
introverts, start writing!