I’ll be honest. This first part is no secret: The thought of a networking event is sort of scary for just about everyone. Networking for introverts is a whole new ballgame. Basically, it’s about as fun as getting a root canal.
A networking event can easily lead an introvert to many sleepless nights. The key thing to remember is this: you have to find a way to balance your natural reluctance with the need to meet and network with potential employers.
To help you out, here are four ways introverts can tackle any networking event (especially when you just can’t rustle up the same level of excitement as that extrovert across the room).
Without further prolonging, here they are:
1.) Arrive Early
Seems like a strange bit of advice, right? But think of it this way: What’s easier — meeting people one-on-one or walking into a crowded room of strangers already engaged in animated conversations and trying to wedge yourself into the nearest discussion? Showing up for a professional event as the doors open gives you time to scope out the space at your leisure and start getting comfortable with other early comers before the place fills up. By the time things are in full swing, you’ll already be in your networking groove.
2.) Get an Outgoing Wingman
Have you heard the saying, “Job hunting is a lot like dating?” Keep that in mind as you head into a networking event and borrow this dating world technique. As an introvert, there’s the temptation to assume everyone has the same feeling about socializing you do. In fact, being around people is where extroverts get their energy. Doing it charges them up, so why not use their energy to your advantage in the networking arena?
Yes, you read that correctly. Team up with a more outgoing peer, and see who you can meet! Choose someone who is happy to make intros and get the conversation spinning, but also knows enough not to hog every speaking opportunity and will happily stand back, to let you shine once you have your schmoozing sea legs under you.
3.) Know Your Role
As an introvert, it’s often easier to be social if you have a purpose. Give your networking some structure by deciding how many people you’ll introduce yourself to over the course of the event, how many business cards you want to exchange, the number of follow-up meetings you’ll potentially want to get on calendars, etc. This gives you a purpose beyond trying gamely to make small talk with a wine glass or appetizer plate in hand.
4.) Do the Prep Work in Advance
See if you can get a list of who will be attending in advance. If the list of attendees isn’t public, use social media (like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) to ask who else is attending or to start a conversation with peers/professionals you’d like to chat with before the night of the event. What does this mean? It means you can prep yourself and your materials for these discussions in advance.
Also stop by Career & Internship Services and make an appointment with a counselor. They can give you further information on how to best work the event, and potentially connect you, too.
As a bonus, creating a clear networking goal means you get to bask in the warm glow of satisfaction when you meet it, which you can use to fuel your spirit when your next networking event rolls around!