This career tip is by Kenya Narvaez ’23, career consulting intern. Meet with Kenya and other consulting interns during drop-in hours for the Career Lab.
Networking is one of the most important aspects of career development. However, you might find it difficult to network professionally. Networking can be awkward and nerve-wracking, especially as an introvert, which might make you want to avoid it all together. Below are some tips to help you navigate networking events and meetings as an introvert.
Manage your expectations
How many times have you found yourself feeling awkward at a networking event and finding it hard to strike up or join conversations with other professionals? Do you often just want the event to be over? With about 85% of jobs gained through networking, you cannot afford to skip out on networking in your career development process. Walking away with a negative experience will make you think that you are just not built for networking. So, what can you do?
Networking is like any other skill. You have to practice it to get better at it, and it takes time and effort to feel comfortable networking. To start practicing, you must become comfortable with the idea that networking will have awkward and discouraging moments.
During networking events and meetings, make sure that you are actively listening to what others are saying. Introverts tend to be naturally good at listening, which is an effective and essential skill in networking. Often people are thinking about what they will say while another person is talking, which can lead to them missing key information or seeming disinterested.
Being present in conversations and actively listening helps you better connect with others and keep conversations going.
Having a few questions prepared in advance will help in starting conversations or keeping them going. Before your networking meeting or event, take some time to think about 3 to 4 questions to ask professionals. Questions about people’s career fields, career journeys, or interests are great options.
When preparing the questions, it's best to do some research on the person you are meeting or the networking event. Having prepared questions makes it easier to start conversations and helps with awkward silences.
One of the biggest challenges to networking as an introvert is that it is exhausting. Taking breaks from socializing is how introverts “recharge.” Therefore, it is important that you take some breaks during networking events. Grab a drink or some food and take some time to gather yourself every once in a while throughout the event.
At networking events, it might be tempting to leave early which could mean you miss out on certain opportunities. In addition to taking breaks, try to have a set time goal to stay at the event. For example, if you tend to leave events early, set a goal to stay at the event for at least 30 minutes. You will find yourself feeling more comfortable networking the longer you stay at the event. And who knows, you might even find yourself having fun building connections!
To be able to connect with others, you need to know yourself. Know what your career interests and goals are and why. At every networking event or meeting, you will have to talk about yourself at one point or another. Knowing how to communicate your career interests and other aspects of yourself is crucial for making connections.
Networking may feel like it is not built for introverts. In reality, all you need is a bit of practice and strategies that work for you!