Back in 2008 I instructed a continuing education course through the University of North Carolina at Charlotte called “Professional Networking for Introverts.” Although I’d already been a member of LinkedIn for over 4 four years, it was still a relatively obscure social media platform, but I thought it was a particularly good professional networking tool for introverts. It’s gone through lots of changes since 2008, but LinkedIn remains one of the best tools to help introverts network effectively.
In 2014 Dorie Clark published a short article in the Harvard Business Review called Networking for Introverts that I think offers some good suggestions for introverts to use in advancing the effectiveness of their job-search networking. She recognizes that most introverts prefer “minimally stimulating environments.”
So one of her first suggestions is to create your own events. These can be smaller events, focused on subject matter of your interest, and you get to control the size and make-up of the audience. In my experience, if you are willing to do the leg work, others really appreciate the opportunity to attend these types of small events. I’ve used this technique myself for networking, though not job-search networking. I created a Power Podium to bring speakers in to speak on energy topics of interest to the ~25 person office in which I work. In addition, I invite about 5 to 10 other power industry professionals with whom I (and I assume others in my office) would like to network. We don’t regularly schedule the Power Podiums; in fact some are very opportunistic, like when a speaker happens to be in Charlotte from out of town. But it provides a forum where I can offer some continuity of speakers. I got the idea for the Power Podium from when I was invited to speak to the Ministry of Environment in Ontario at their Green Podium. I was an opportunistic invite who happened to be in Toronto to speak at another conference.
Although not one of Ms. Clark’s recommendations, I often suggest that job-seekers consider creating a group on LinkedIn, or some other social media platform, tailored to a subject area and/or geographic region they know well. Sharing articles with these groups can be an effective way to both get to know an existing network better, as well as expand your network as colleagues of colleagues are invited or request to join the group.
The article goes on to suggest that introverts
- Understand when you’re at your best
- Rate the likelihood of connecting, and
- Calibrate your schedule
To me these can all be summed up by playing to your strengths. Go to events where you are likely to be successful, at times when you are likely to be successful. At large events, think about events within the event, which are going to be fruitful. When I go to trade shows coupled with technical meetings, I find the trade show floor to be much more accommodating when most of the people are at technical presentations. So I always pick a presentation time to skip on purpose and go to the trade show floor to meet vendors when they aren’t overwhelmed. I also find a conference breakfast to be an easier time to meet people than lunch or dinner, so I always try to arrive early and sit with someone I don’t know. These may or may not be good approaches for you. The point is figure out the times and places that you can be successful, usually through experimentation.