“Networking” is probably the scariest word for introverts because it preys on some of our worst fears: talking to strangers, new places, crowds, and small talk.
The good news is that none of that is necessary when trying to develop new job leads.
Generally, we’re pretty good at talking to people we know; email; smaller one-on-one hangs; and having in-depth discussions about topics we’re passionate about. So, why wouldn’t you network from this place of strength?
You can leverage skills from your comfort zone to start developing a network that exists outside of it. Use the following introvert strengths to cultivate more potential job leads.
Make a list of everyone you already know who works in your specific field, a related field, or a broader category of your field (e.g., you work at nonprofit dealing with poverty, your acquaintance works at a nonprofit dealing with environmental issues–you get the idea). Email a small number of them a day to ask if you could pick their brains about the industry over coffee, lunch, or drinks.
Schedule your meetups throughout the month at places where you feel comfortable and confident. If possible, you can stagger meetups so you have lunch and drinks with two people a day, but don’t overload yourself. You know your energy level best.
Avoiding Small Talk
The best part about meeting with people you already know? You can avoid the small talk and jump straight into why you’re there. Talk about the work you’ve been doing, any industry trends you might know about, and ask thoughtful questions about their work
When you meet, don’t ask them about jobs. You want to avoid putting pressure on their response. Instead, say you’re considering your options for the future and ask for advice, companies/organizations you should look into, and who else you should talk to. If they give you names, ask if they would be willing to do an introduction either over email or in person.
Talking About Your Passions
If you only have a handful of people to do this with or have already tapped out your network, join a social club for a hobby or start volunteering with an organization you value. It will be easier to talk to new people if it’s in a social situation when you can connect over your interests, no matter how nerdy or obscure they might be.
When you make a couple friends, start this process. Take people out to the places you feel confident with the goal of deepening your connection and meeting more people through them who will likely share similar interests with you.
The coolest part? You can repeat this process over and over again. You can take the list of names you get from each one of your contacts to set up new meetups.
Sure, they’re strangers, but you’ve already started off in a way that’s left you feeling confident and capable, getting you the confidence and momentum necessary to ask them to a place that will reinforce those positive feelings.