Introverts often get a bad rap. Despite being inwardly inclined, introverts aren’t completely antisocial, nor are they any less capable then their extroverted counterparts. In fact, some of the biggest names in tech, including Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Marissa Mayer and Guy Kawasaki are self-professed introverts.
However, networking can be more intimidating for introverts, and require some different techniques to make the process easier (and, dare I even say—enjoyable).
Here are some helpful tips for how you can successfully build your Rolodex of professional contacts, even if networking doesn’t come naturally to you:
- Change your perspective. With the wrong perspective, networking can feel one-sided and disingenuous, which can make the idea of it even more daunting to introverts. However, it’s important to look at networking as an opportunity to build mutually beneficial relationships. Even if you’re new to your career or changing fields, it’s important to remember you have something to offer—whether that be a unique perspective to the industry or fresh skillset you can bring to the table. You’re planting seeds and you never know which ones are going to blossom. The professionals you’re networking with today could be seeking your help in the future.
- Plan ahead and have an agenda. Before you walk into a networking event it’s a good idea to have an elevator pitch prepared. A good technique is Present, Past, Future. What are you currently doing? What have you’ve done in the past? What do you want for your future? Once you have your pitch prepared and practiced, it will be easier to adjust the content according the environment you are in and to the person you are speaking with. Also, ask yourself what you’re looking to get out of the event. Are you looking to get a new job lead? Meet a potential mentor? Connect with peers to share best practices? By figuring out why you’re going, you can better focus on creating a few quality connections.
- Don’t limit networking to “networking” events. Exchanging business cards with strangers isn’t the only way to build quality connections. Instead, ask friends if they can make introductions, reach out to someone on social media to see if they would be willing to hop on a 30-minute call, or go to non-networking events such as hackathons, where there is still an opportunity to meet like-minded people in your industry. Some of the best opportunities to network are those social occasions that you might get dragged into, like BBQs, neighborhood mixers, or even your kid’s school PTA fundraisers.
- Excuse yourself from people you don’t enjoy. At the end of the day, networking is about building relationships. Like any relationship, don’t try to force something that doesn’t feel right. If you don’t enjoy speaking to someone—or if the conversation feels off—move on to someone else who you can have a more genuine experience with.
Even if networking seems uncomfortable at first, keep putting yourself out there, and you’ll reap the rewards in the form of uncovering hidden career opportunities and building authentic relationships you can tap for years to come.
Angela Stugren is the VP of Career Development at Coding Dojo, a 14-week coding bootcamp in Silicon Valley, Seattle and Los Angeles, and founder of Cloutera Consulting Group, a Seattle-based recruitment consulting firm helping start-ups compete for world class technical talent.