Push down all of your negative self-talk and summon the courage to talk to at least three people at in-person events.
My friend Constance introduced me to this technique years ago. She is a natural networker, very inquisitive and always knows precisely what to say. I, conversely, struggle to fill the silence, attempt to meet as many people as possible and try and share my business card with everyone. Constance taught me that quality is better than quantity. It’s much more important to develop a meaningful connection than collect business cards. For example, I once set a goal to meet the editor of the Canadian Journal of Career Development (CJCD) at the annual Cannexus conference. My intention was to simply meet her and ask about how she selects content for publication. Soon after, I submitted a brief on “Military to Civilian Career Transitions” which was published in the CJCD that same year.
At in-person events, something else that has worked for me is to keep an eye out for other introverts. (There is strength in numbers). You can often find us hanging out by the coffee or snacks. You should be able to recognize us quickly because we’re usually following the same tricks you might use to blend in.
As an executive career strategist, I often give four pieces of advice. 𝗨𝘀𝗲 𝗟𝗶𝗻𝗸𝗲𝗱𝗜𝗻. LinkedIn offers introverts the opportunity to ‘stick our toe in the water’. Rather than the sometimes stressful experience of in-person networking, online networking allows us to research the person we want to connect with and develop our messages in advance before hitting ‘send’. While terrifying for some, thinking through what we want to say, typing it out and verifying our message before we hit send – can make it easier to reach out and expand our network.
Next, I suggest the tactic of “𝗮𝘀𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝘄𝗼 𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗲,” should you find yourself fortunate enough to connect with someone. As part of your follow-up conversation or online exchange, you might thank them for their time, then ask whether they might know one or two other people, willing to talk with you. You’re expanding your network and leveraging person 1 to meet persons 2 and 3.
Another useful tactic is to 𝗿𝗲𝗳𝗲𝗿 𝗮 𝗳𝗿𝗶𝗲𝗻𝗱. As a way of thanking person 1, ask whether there is anyone they’d like to meet. Look for a way to connect them with someone you already know. This is great for two reasons. One, now you’re connecting two of the people in your network to one another, possibly gaining some good karma as a result. Two, you now have a reason to follow up with person 1 to check up on how the meeting went. You don’t have to come up with an excuse or reason to follow up if one already exists.
Finally, the strategy that ties it all together is to 𝗽𝘂𝘁 𝘁𝗼𝗴𝗲𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗮 𝗻𝗲𝘁𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗻. It doesn’t have to be big or scary. I once set a goal to join a professional association. A few years later, that one little step (plus all the work I was doing behind the scenes) won me an industry spotlight award. Had I not set the goal to join the association I may never have been recognized. I leveraged that exposure into more opportunities to meet people inside the organization thus expanding my network.
Tiny steps in the right direction can lead to big wins in your career development.
“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”
― Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo
Related Categories: Advice, Featured, Job Search, LinkedIn, Networking
About The Author
Maureen McCann is an award-winning career coach, master resume writer, and master certified interview, employment, and career strategist whose clients include C-level executives, managers, and professionals in all industries including the Canadian banking, oil and gas, healthcare, IT, and government sectors.