Research suggests that a huge proportion of jobs are now found through networking alone with many jobs never even advertised. This can make it difficult if you’re an introvert since the prospect of making small talk with a roomful of potential ‘contacts’ can be very daunting. If you find it hard to establish rapport with new people, we’ve discovered some sure-fire tips to help you handle it.
Small talk doesn’t come easy to many people and it can be a huge effort to establish rapport with people you’ve never met before. I was fairly shy when I was younger and I really struggled to open up to strangers. As a marketing communications manager for a global IT firm, I was expected to attend many functions for work and this was often intimidating for me. I learnt little tricks to help me navigate this essential ‘social’ part of my career and here’s a few I thought I’d share:
TIP # 1 – Prepare: If you get nervous talking to new people, research who’s going to be there and have some questions or topics pre-prepared. If it’s a networking event, you can talk about their career or yours – questions like ‘How did you get started?’, ‘What do you like best about what you do?’, ‘Why do you attend networking events?’, and ‘What other networking events do you attend?’ are all great starting points.
TIP # 2 – Realise you’re not alone: Think about how others feel and recognise that you won’t be the only person feeling this way. Remember that many other people are also not fond of networking events so just start a conversation – you might be helping someone else to feel more comfortable! ‘Have you been to this event before?’ is a good opening line.
TIP # 3 – Listen: Once you start a conversation, try to remain present. Ask lots of questions and listen to what the other person is saying. Don’t let nerves get the better of you by constantly worrying about what you’re going to say next. Practice your listening skills and be interested in what the other person is saying. This will drive further questions and contributions from you and hopefully you can have a mutually enjoyable exchange!
TIP # 4 – Smile and keep your body language positive: Don’t hide with your arms crossed in the corner. If you’re looking more casual and giving off positive vibes somebody might just walk up to you and initiate a conversation. This won’t happen if you’re not looking approachable.
TIP # 5 – Leverage social media: Introverts often communicate better in written format, so taking advantage of social media, email and other online forums is a great natural fit. You can use this strength to your advantage after any physical networking opportunities since many people never even take the opportunity to follow up. Sending a brief post-event email or LinkedIn connection request is a quick and easy way to cement your new contact.
TIP # 6 – Focus on quality not quantity: Don’t focus on how many people you talk to, but rather the quality of the conversations you do have. If you make one quality connection at an event, that’s better than talking to ten different people and making no connections. And forcing yourself to speak to lots of different people will put you under even more pressure whereas giving yourself permission to do much less takes the pressure off.
TIP # 7 – Learn to brag: Kidding……. kind of. You need to be vocal about your accomplishments, however this can be hard if you’re not that kind of person. Try thinking about your achievements and accomplishments as little mini stories you can tell about what you’re good at. Think about the things and projects you’ve worked on that make you feel good, and that you’re excited and/or passionate about. It will be easier to talk about these with strangers and it will feel more natural talking up your achievements.
TIP # 8 – Challenge yourself to a time limit: If you’re at a physical networking event that you really don’t want to be at, set yourself a time limit. This could be 30 to 45 minutes which really isn’t very long. Grab yourself a drink and something to eat and put some of the tips from above into action. You’ll be amazed at how quickly that time goes – who knows, once that time is up, you might even feel like staying longer!
TIP # 9 – Follow up: Since introverts are often good at written communications – this part is easy! Many people are terrible at follow up so just by dropping an email or sending a LinkedIn connection request (always with a short customised message reminding your contact who you are) means you’ll be ahead of the game in no time.
Some experts suggest that as many as 80% of jobs are not being advertised, but we find most people are still spending the majority of their job search effort looking for advertised roles. While networking will certainly help you to find a job and advance your career, it’s not just about that. Finding new clients, building new business relationships, and identifying partner opportunities are all benefits that will also result from networking. So what are you waiting for?
Do you cringe at the thought of networking? Would you like to learn new networking strategies designed to increase your job opportunities? If so, please see our Job Search Coaching Services and Career Counselling Services.