How to network when you're an introvert

Sure, it's easy for the extroverts of the world. But what about for those of us who aren't as outgoing?

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Whether you’re looking for a co-op placement, summer job, or post-grad work, you’ve probably been told that you often find the good jobs through networking. For introverts, this experience can be incredibly daunting and nerve-wracking. But don't crawl back into your shell or stand on the sidelines staring at your phone—with proper preparation and a good attitude, you can be networking like a pro in no time.

Find opportunities to network

As an introvert, the hardest part of networking is putting yourself out there and finding people to talk to. Luckily, as Dal students, we have access to a variety of networking events that are held on campus every year. While the Job and Career Fair and the Halifax Universities Career Fair are popular choices, also consider going to society events, workshops, and anything else that interests you—basically any event where you're not going to know everyone.

Start small and ease yourself in. You can try networking with other students you don't know, and chances are these events will have alumni and other professionals who are valuable contacts to add to your network. While it’s important to prepare and look professional, guests at these types of events understand that students are new to networking and still working on your communication skills. Some might even give you advice for your next event.

Make an elevator pitch

An “elevator pitch” is a short oral summary of your background, experiences, and skills that you should know by heart and be able to recite on demand. It should be about 30 seconds in length—as short as an average elevator ride. While it may seem impossible, there are a ton of online resources to help you write the perfect pitch for yourself.

You need to identify a couple key points about yourself that differentiate you from the rest of the pack and make you seem like a valuable addition to any organization. This differs from person to person, and from job to job, but some examples include your volunteer/work experience, future goals, and languages you know. The key to a successful elevator pitch is to make it seem natural and not like a rehearsed speech. After memorizing your pitch, recording it is a useful trick to see how it sounds to others. Here's a good guide for creating your own elevator pitch.

Prepare some conversation starters

Perhaps the most nerve-wracking aspect of networking for introverts is actually going up to strangers and initiating a conversation. You want it to seem natural and not forced, and you need some decent topics to talk about with someone you've never met before and don't know much (or anything) about. By preparing questions to ask, it will show you're interested in talking to the person and make a great first impression. After you introduce yourself, try some of these questions:

  • What do you do?
  • How did you get involved in this industry/company/etc.?
  • What kind of projects are you currently working on?
  • What do you enjoy the most about what you do?
  • What does a typical work day look like for you?
  • Do you have advice for someone entering this industry?

Now that you have the ball rolling, you’ll know a little more about the person you’re talking to and should be able to tailor the rest of your questions to their responses. Check out these 11 ways to start a conversation with absolutely anyone.

Connect on LinkedIn

If you don’t have a LinkedIn account by now, you should definitely make one as soon as possible. LinkedIn is a perfect way to connect and keep up with contacts you’ve met at networking events. LinkedIn is also well known to be used by campus recruiters to scout out potential candidates for their organizations. Make sure when you send someone a request to write a personalized note that explains who you are and how you met, rather than using the default generic request.

My favourite feature of the platform is the ability to see who’s viewed your profile within the last month so you can see if a contact is interested in you! Be sure to upload a professional profile picture (if you're in Halifax, you can drop by the Bissett Centre on the 4th floor of the SUB to get one taken for free) and keep your work experience and education updated to help potential employers find you.