You may have heard the statistic that three quarters of job offers are the result of networking. If you are looking online or searching through the want ads, you are missing out on 75% of the available market, so learning how to network can be an essential prerequisite to advancing your career.
For some lucky men and women, networking is as natural as breathing. These are the folks that can walk into a room and instantly be surrounded; the people who always know what to say and how to say it. But what if you are not a natural networker, or even worse, an introvert?
For introverts, networking can be a painful experience, but there are tricks they can use to reap the benefits of this age-old practice.
Here are eight ways introverts can win at the networking game.
- Do your networking online. It has never been a better time to be an introvert, as social media provides a real alternative to traditional types of networking. If you hate networking, the online world can help you connect right from your keyboard.
- Connect via shared interests. It is easier to connect with those who share your interests, so break the ice by seeking out people who love the same types of things. If you love to hike alone in the woods, join a local hiking group. If you enjoy reading solo, look for book clubs where you can express your opinions in a safe place.
- Increase your comfort level with small group activities. Walking into a crowded room can be a nightmare for the introvert, but smaller groups are more accessible and less intimidating. Whether it is a game of golf, running in the park or just a cup of coffee, these small-scale activities can boost your confidence and advance your networking skills.
- Practice casual networking every day. You do not have to attend a party or formal event to network. You never know who you will meet, so practice casual networking at the gym, the local café and anywhere else you find yourself.
- Be yourself. Introverts sometimes try to put on airs, but that false front is also a false sense of security. If you want to win the networking game, being authentic is the only way to go. Be yourself, be friendly, and people will like you.
- Ask for an introduction. If you are uncomfortable walking up to strangers, ask a friend or colleague to introduce you. A friendly introduction can break the ice and make networking easier and more successful.
- Be a great listener. As an introvert, you may not be a great talker, but you can be an active listener. Practice your listening skills so you can focus on what the other person has to say.
- Ask unusual questions. If you want to stand out and make a great first impression, look for questions others have not already asked. Asking unusual and challenging questions can jump start your nascent networking skills and help you make new friends and future colleagues.
There is no doubt that being an introvert can make networking more difficult, but that does not mean you cannot succeed. If you want to move ahead in your career, tap into the hidden job market and earn more money, learning to network is an essential skill. The sooner you learn to work the room and network with confidence, the better off you will be. The eight strategies listed above can help you jump start your networking efforts, so you can build a better career and a brighter future.