When it comes to social gatherings, small talk, and tons of new people, networking can be an introvert’s worst nightmare. Take it from me, a classic I-think-I’d-rather-stay-home introvert navigating her way through the many career fairs, internships, and job applications of college life. During my time in college, I’ve had my fair share of networking no-no’s (I forgot my own name!) and successes (I landed a club leadership role!) and I’ve since come up with my own tips, whether online or in-person, to connect — both inside and outside of my comfort zone.
- Set goals for yourself — and know your limits
Challenging yourself to make new connections can be tricky, especially when being a social butterfly isn’t your strong suit. But when it comes to networking at an event or on social media, it’s helpful to keep specific goals in mind when trying to make new connections, and making these goals realistic for yourself will ease the pressure of interaction. For example, make it a goal to give your resume to at least three hiring managers when at a networking event. Or, try exchanging contact info with at least five other people, such as school alumni or other people in your program. Aiming for something specific might just give you the edge you need to put yourself out there!
That being said, always trust your gut and know your limits, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t meet your original goal. As an introvert myself, I know just how quickly your social battery can drain. While it’s important to step outside of your comfort zone every once in a while, make sure you’re taking the steps for self-care and alone time afterwards if that’s what works for you!
- Focus on your elevator pitch
So, you’ve just shaken hands with a potential employer at a networking event, or maybe you’ve been introduced to someone new at a Zoom meeting. What do you do next?
If the occasion calls for it, it’s time to give them your elevator pitch: a brief, 30 to 60 second introductory speech on who you are, what you do, and what you’re aiming for. It’s called an elevator pitch because it’s meant to hook in your audience with all necessary networking info as concisely as possible (think: the amount of time it takes to reach your floor in the elevator), and it’s great for introverts because you can easily rehearse it ahead of time — no more awkward silences or drawing blanks!
To write your elevator pitch, try structuring it like this: aside from the introductory basics like your name and college major, talk a little about what relevant work you’ve done previously, what projects you’re working on now, and what kind of potential opportunities you’re looking for. Not only will the elevator pitch help establish what kind of connection you can be to others, but it can also help ease the flow of conversation!
- LinkedIn is your friend! No, seriously!
Keeping an updated LinkedIn profile can do wonders for upping your networking game, and you don’t even have to leave your couch! Once you’ve created the profile of any employer’s dreams, you can use the site to see what kind of jobs your school’s alumni go into, and connect with anyone you think might make a good contact. This can include people currently in your program, those who have graduated, or even people who are in the same clubs and societies as you. No need to have the introvert’s worst fear — awkward small talk — when your skills and experience are already out there to see!
When sending a new connection request on LinkedIn, be sure to use the “add a note” feature to say hello and introduce yourself (you could even add in a shortened version of your elevator pitch!). This can help attract more people to your profile to see what kind of experience you have to offer. The more eyes on your LinkedIn profile (and the less eyes on you), the better!
- Slide into those DMs… professionally
Let’s be real — everyone cyberstalks these days, so why not use it to your advantage? Social media is arguably the most powerful tool in networking right now, and if you meet someone at an event, it’s not as weird as you think it is to search them up on social media and send them a message, especially if you’re polite, courteous, and friendly. It can be as easy as letting them know that you remember them from the event and that it was great hearing what they had to say. This alone can help get your name out there without having to navigate crowds of people or having your message get lost in the chat of a Zoom call.
LinkedIn doesn’t have to be the only place you can do this, either. Instagram and Twitter are also great options if it seems appropriate (just make sure that the posts you have on your social media are ones you’re okay with potential employers seeing!).
Still feeling too shy to send a message? Just remember that being respectful and kind can go a long way in a simple note, and even sharing that you appreciated meeting them can be more impactful down the road than you expect.
- Don’t know what to say? Ask for advice!
So you’ve gathered the courage to introduce yourself to a potential employer or someone who works in the field you want to go into, and you’ve given them your elevator pitch and exchanged contact info… now what? For us introverts, keeping up a conversation might feel unnatural or may put you on edge, but there’s no need to sweat, fear, or freeze up. The best way to go from here? Just listen to what others have to say!
It really is that simple. Asking for advice from others in their area of expertise will not only give you a valuable perspective on the job market, but it will also show your genuine interest and passion for the industry. Here’s the easiest question to ask: “What are some tips or insights you would give to someone who is starting out in your field?” This question is bound to give you nothing but great info, and all you have to do is listen to the answer!
Networking as an introvert may seem daunting at first, but you’re just as capable of climbing that career ladder as anyone else, even if social events and small talk aren’t your thing. Setting goals, focusing on your strengths, and using social media can keep you more connected than you ever thought possible. And you never know — putting your self-reflection and listening skills to good use might just land you your next internship.