How to Help Introverted Clients Embrace Networking
By Tanya Kett.
The 2017 holiday period is upon us. It’s a time to get together with friends, family, and work colleagues. Invitations to parties and dinners abound. For many people, the season offers a welcome break from the stress and intensity of day-to-day work life.
For introverts, however, the holiday season can create stress. For introverted job-seeking clients, the stresses of the season may be compounded. These individuals dread the prospect of having to attend uncomfortable social gatherings, and, if they do attend, they do so while burdened with the worry and uncertainty that unemployment brings.
Introverts’ Reaction to Networking
Have you ever coached someone on job search strategies and mentioned networking only to be met with hesitation, uncertainty, and fear – or even flat-out refusal? I have.
In fact, I am one of those introverts who avoided networking when I was new to my field, so I speak from experience. I eventually ended up getting my first job through networking, as well as my current position, but if I’d been told that I had to actively “network” to get where I am, I probably would have refused.
I learned that networking simply means talking to people, involving them in your job search. Career practitioners know that this can be done informally or formally, but job seekers often think it is strictly a formal process and one they are not comfortable with.
Remind clients that even a casual conversation with someone they’ve just been introduced to at a holiday party is, in fact, “networking.” Making a connection at a fun, relaxed social event is good practice for business-related networking.
Coach Introverted Clients to Build Out From Their Comfort Zones
I help introverted job seekers develop a networking strategy by starting from a position that’s comfortable for them. I encourage them to first reach out to people they know and then work their way out to the contacts of people they know. This helps to gradually build their confidence, which allows me to introduce the concept of conducting informational interviews with people they are interested in learning from. Starting off interviewing contacts of people they know, hopefully they’ll grow to feel confident enough to request interviews with individuals who are strangers to them.
Knowing how to start and stop conversations is often the most difficult task for reserved job seekers. Coach and practice how to professionally shake hands, make an effective introduction, and open up a conversation. How a client introduces him or herself to a professional contact is similar to the ever-popular interview question, “Tell me about yourself.” Coaching clients on strategies for introducing themselves really ticks two boxes at the same time.
Teach clients how to end conversations, too. Included in the wrap-up of a conversation may be the exchange of contact information, an offer to provide references, and/or politely requesting permission to follow up at a future date. Practicing these closing statements will help clients feel more at ease in real-world situations.
Introverts’ Networking Advantage
Introverts are actually in a great position to network as being good at it involves more listening and less talking than people realize. Introverts tend to be great listeners. The goal is to learn from a professional contact – to gather information that will help with the job search. Some of the things to be learned from contacts include how they got to the job they currently hold (their career path), as well as the skills and qualifications they have, or would recommend having.
At the same time, clients should focus on creating comfortable, positive rapport with their contacts. Doing so will go a long way towards building up a professional network that will ideally lead to more contacts, new ideas, options, referrals, or even a job!
The Benefits of Networking
Employers prefer to hire from within or from referrals made by people they know and trust, as there is less risk involved in doing so. But, there is a misconception among some job seekers that networking is “fake,” “desperate,” or “uncomfortable.” I can certainly relate to the “uncomfortable” label, but it’s important to recognize the benefits that networking can deliver. A network contact could just be the invaluable referee needed to land a dream job.
It takes effort to network effectively, and employers recognize and appreciate this fact. Networking can make a candidate stand out above the sea of other applicants who simply upload their resumes online, hoping, against the odds, that they’ll be selected for an interview.
Creating buy-in from job seekers is often more challenging than the networking itself, but it does pay off! According to Livecareer.com, only 1 out of 200 resume applications results in a job offer, but 1 out of 12 informational interviews leads to the same result. Informational interviews, a form of networking, are clearly highly effective at helping job seekers reach their ultimate goal.
The point is, introvert or not, if a client wants to secure a job, there is no way to “take a pass” on networking.
I encourage my clients to use the opportunity of holiday get-togethers to stretch outside their comfort zones. I challenge them to talk to one or two new people at each event…ask good questions, listen carefully, gather information, and let the conversation flow naturally. Who knows? They may just have fun while they’re at it.
Connecting with others is an invaluable life skill. We never know where interesting leads might originate, so any conversation has the potential to be a great conversation!