Networking Tips for the
Shy Job Seekers
By L. Michelle Tullier
Unfortunately for introverted
people, it's getting more and more difficult
to succeed professionally without a broad
range of connections to other people.
There simply is no such thing as a job
or career field in which you can be rewarded
entirely for what you know and how well
you do your work. You not only have to
do your job well but also make sure that
others know that you are doing your job
This is especially true if you're self-employed.
Word-of-mouth publicity is widely regarded
as one of the keys to running just about
any type of small business or consulting
practice. Remember, it's not just what
you know that counts, it's who knows that
you know what you know.
Visibility is key. This can be trying
for introverts who would rather focus
on their work than on their relationships
at work. And it can be downright painful
for shy types who cringe at the thought
of self promotion.
There's good news and bad news for introverted
or shy professionals. The bad news is
that networking as a means of career survival
is here to stay. The good news is that
networking is definitely a skill that
can be learned.
The following tips will
make the process less painful.
1. Take baby steps.
Don't try to become a master networker
overnight. A common mistake introverts
make is to wake up one day and announce,
"Today, I'm going to become an active
networker!" That proclamation is,
unfortunately, about as likely to succeed
as announcing that you're going to lose
weight or quit smoking once and for all.
2. Don't assume you're
being a pest.
Introverts tend to assume they'll be bothering
the people they contact. They may be projecting
their own feelings onto others. Introverts
often prefer to be left alone-to do their
work without interruptions or having their
"own little world" invaded.
Before you assume you're going to be a
pest if you try to make contact with someone,
think twice. Most people will be glad
to hear from you.
3. Rely on your supporters.
People you know well and who are accessible
can provide emotional support when the
going gets tough, encouragement on the
way up and a kick in the pants when you're
slacking off. Networking invariably brings
challenges that result in less than positive
feelings. Supporters can offer encouragement
and empathy along the way.
4. Get the competitive
Try to remember lots of people, who aren't
half a capable, qualified, talented and
nice as you are advancing simply because
they connect with others and make themselves
visible. Even people who aren't competitive
by nature usually can muster some competitive
drive when they see how unfair it is that
less-qualified colleagues are getting
5. Rest on your laurels.
Remember the times you've been successful
in group endeavors or one-on-one interactions
with others. These recollections will
give you courage to face the next networking
6. Be a leader.
An advantage of any type of leadership
position is it gives you a built-in excuse
for connecting with people. Introverts
don't always seek leadership roles because
these positions inevitably require such
dreaded tasks as committee meetings and
team projects. More behind-the-scenes
leadership roles such as being a newsletter
editor or secretary for a professional
organization can play to your strengths
without forcing you to be too outgoing
7. Enlist a spokesperson.
If you're hesitant to contact someone
you don't know, consider having another
person act as a go-between for you. If
someone in your network has given you
the name of a colleague, ask your contact
to call the person first for you to "warn
them" that you'll be calling. Most
people are willing to do this.
8. Don't underestimate
the power of listening.
Those who don't have the gift of gab shouldn't
despair. Listening is just as important
as talking when it comes to establishing
good relationships with others. There's
nothing extroverts like better than having
someone listening to them talk.
9. Don't sweat the small
Small talk is just what it sounds like:
small. A sense of humor or some profound
insight is nice, but there's nothing wrong
with a mundane comment to break the ice
like, "Large turnout, isn't it?"
or "This is great dip." Asking
a question is often a great way to initiate
10. Like birds on a feather,
If you find group interaction difficult,
look for other people who seem uncomfortable
and approach them. It's easier to start
with other introverts than with the intimidating
woman in red who's surrounded by a phalanx
of fans in the center of the room. But
don't get stuck with the introverts. At
some point you have to leave the nest.
11. Make the most of
what you know.
What you know is just as important as
who you know when it comes to networking.
Unlike extroverts, introverts are likely
to be the ones to take the time to read
the industry newsletters cover-to-cover.
Let people know you are a person they
can call for the latest information on
whatever's relevant to your field. Take
the initiative to pick up the phone and
share your findings with others.
12. Rehearse, rehearse,
It's likely that you'll find yourself
having the same sort of conversation repeatedly.
If you tent to get tongue-tied when meeting
someone new, try practicing what you're
going to say. If you freeze up or babble
incoherently when leaving messages, get
in the habit of taking time before picking
up the phone to plan what you'll say if
the person doesn't answer.
13. Don't keep it to
Introverts worry they'll bother people,
so they tend to reach out to others only
when they'll really worried or excited
about something. Instead, try to get into
the habit of connecting with people over
small thing-not just the big ones. Doing
so enables you to develop ongoing relationships
and ensures that contacts are there for
you when you need to share the big stuff.
14. Attend events that
If you're uncomfortable or nervous at
events that are solely networking opportunities,
try to attend gatherings that have a purpose,
such as educational or cultural seminars.
Interactive classes and workshops are
good bets because they'll have a built-in
agenda that involves structured networking.
15. Write often.
If you can't get yourself to pick up the
phone and make a cold call, or even a
cool call, then consider writing. A letter
of introduction can make the follow-up
phone call less nerve-racking.
16. Get out among them.
Do you tend to hole up in your office
or other workplace? Just getting out of
the house or office to be among people
helps. Although walking isn't direct networking,
it propels you out of your own little
world and brings about a powerful mindset
change that can lead you into networking.
17. Be positive.
Before you declare that it's not going
to be worth your time to talk to Joe Shmoe
or to attend a particular event, stop
and think. Do you have rational proof
that your prospects are dim or are you
just afraid? Almost all encounters are
worthwhile, if for no other reason than
for the practice.
18. Consider seeking
If you think your shyness or introversion
is more than just a mild nuisance, you
might need to consult a psychologist,
therapist or other mental health counselor.
Shyness that seriously hinders social
interactions can keep you from doing what
you need to do, and you may benefit from
19. Be comfortable in
your own skin.
Sometimes reluctance to network results
from insecurity about your appearance.
While physical attractiveness is by no
means a prerequisite for being a successful
networker, the "package" you
present to others is important. If something
about your outward image is undermining
your confidence, consider fixing what's
fixable and learn to make the most of
20. Just do it.
You never know where a job, lead or some
good advice is going to turn up. Sure,
networking can be difficult, anxiety-provoking
and a pain in the neck, but at some point
you have to abandon all excuses, take
a deep breath and just do it.
Back to Articles