There is really no underestimating the power of your professional and personal network. Just about anyone you ask will tell you about the job they got because they had a friend who had a friend who knew someone. I was talking to a friend of mine earlier this week. He had been working with a construction company for a few years and had just been let go. He was, of course, upset and worried about what he was going to do and how long it was going to take to find a new job. And, with the way the job market is right now, I can't say that I blamed him.
What really saved him was the fact that he is an extrovert and has an innate talent to talk people into just about anything. So, the first thing he did was call every single person he knew and told them about what happened with his job. By the third day of his unemployment, he had spoken to almost every contact he had. On the fourth day, one of his friends called him and told him that his uncle was hiring. He called the contact and had an interview and job offer the very next day. Now, he is working in a job he really enjoys and is getting paid substantially better he was at his previous job. He says that getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to him. Of course, this is a specific situation of really good networking combined with a whole lot of luck.
But, what are those of us who are introverts and not that great at networking to do? As an introvert myself, I know how hard it is to make and nurture casual friendships with a large number of people. I tend to have just a handful of close friends because I am not very good with the chit-chat necessary for casual friendships and acquaintanceship. There are, however, a few mistakes that introverts make that can actually make things harder than they need to be.
According to Psychology Today, here are some of the mistakes introverts make when it comes to networking:
- Isolating – When you don't have a high need for social contact, it can be easy to stay at home and not go out and talk to people. Shutting yourself in doesn't help you with networking and it actually can make you worse at talking to others. Sometimes, you have to force yourself to go out with friends or attend a social function just to get the gears moving again.
- Not returning phone calls – I am so bad at this, and the other introverts I know are too. Even though it is tempting, when someone you know calls you, don't just ignore it and send it to voice mail, If you get into the habit of not returning calls, anyone but your closets friends will take this as a personal affront and assume that you aren't interested in being friends with them. Even if you have to force yourself, pick up the phone and make the call.
- Babbling – Anxiety and nerves can make you do some crazy things. This applies to making conversation as well. If you find yourself running off at the mouth, take a deep breath and just slow down. Take a look and see if your audience is actually interested in what you have been rambling about. If they have a pained look on their face, it's time to wind it down. Remember that friendships are built in small increments, and they start with small talk.
- Confusing being introverted with fear – Sometimes it is hard to know if the resistance you feel toward attending social functions, returning calls and getting out and meeting people is the result of being introverted or if it is because you are afraid. Social anxiety is common, especially among introverts. If you are feeling afraid, take a look at what exactly you are scared of. Knowing your fear is the key to overcoming it.
- Judging – When you are uncomfortable, making chit-chat is hard. It can be easy to start to think that extroverts are shallow or that the whole social ritual is stupid. Many times I hear people saying “I would talk to people but, this party is pointless and I don't want to waste my time making small talk with shallow people.” Just because you dislike social gatherings doesn't mean that they are pointless or that there isn't anyone there who is worth talking to. This is just a defensive stance to hide a deep social anxiety. Don't let that tape start playing, because there are always interesting people to meet at almost any function.
If you are an introvert, don't think that networking is something you just can't do. Even if you have to force yourself, kicking and screaming, to attend a party or social event, just do it. You might have to take frequent breaks and bring along a trusted friend, but once you take the plunge and start getting to know people, you may find that you are actually having fun.