But for people who aren’t natural networkers, the idea of networking can cause a lot of anxiety.
Many dread “schmoozing” with large groups of people. The good news is that networking isn’t just about working a crowd. In fact, introverts (or shy people) have some qualities that work to their advantage. Some people are better listeners. They think before speaking, and they enjoy one-on-one conversations.
Networking is about building relationships, and that can be done one-on-one, in groups, or online through social networking (like MySpace, Facebook, or Linked In).
Here are some tips to help non-networking people build larger networks:
1. Broaden your networking goal.
If you simply ask people you meet if they know of any job openings, you’ll likely be disappointed. Most people in the world are not walking around with job leads to hand out. Networking is a process of building connections and mutual exchange. Perhaps someone you meet could give you advice on your resume—or maybe you could help someone you meet with a job search or professional development. If you’re on the shy side, offering something may be easier than asking for something.
2. Volunteer at large events.
Instead of going to a professional association meeting and trying to strike up conversations with strangers, volunteer to help organize or run the meeting. Many people find it easier to become acquainted with others by making a contribution rather than making small talk. You can help find speakers for an event or serve on a committee instead. Both of these activities will give you a purpose at the event—and the work itself is a good networking opportunity. You will be getting to know people, but you’re getting to know them because you’re part of a team with a goal.
3. Arrive early for group events.
Introverts tend to procrastinate about going to big events. Then they arrive and find the other guests already gathered in intimidating small groups. Go early instead, before groups form. There are just a few random people who have shown up early, and they’re delighted to have someone to talk to. Then you become part of the group.
4. Don’t set unrealistic goals for group meetings.
For example, don’t pressure yourself to meet everyone. Instead, set a goal of talking to five new people. If the event has an attendee list, you can always send follow-up emails to people you didn’t have a chance to talk to.
5. Network online—in moderation.
Social networking sites can play a valuable role in networking: they help you keep up your connections with people who may be able to help you. Also, connecting virtually can be less stressful than face-to-face interaction. Just be sure you don’t spend so much time connecting online that you never connect in person.
Build your networking list. Then work it.
You’ll find more jobs here than any other way.