The idea that introverts are not as good networkers as extroverts is not only wrong but based on a totally false premise. At least that's what expert networker Julia Alwin tells My Perfect Resume.
"Being an introvert doesn't mean a person is shy or that they're quiet or not confident," Alwin tells us over the phone. Instead, she says the whole idea of introversion is based on how people feel emotionally around other people. "Extroverts get recharged by people. Introverts get charged by kind of being alone. The [common] assumption is that introverts don't shine as brightly as an extrovert and that's not the case."
Any advice for introverts about how to network to get a job then should not center on ideas about how to psych themselves up or to ask them to be "brave" in uncomfortable situations. In other words, they should not be told to pretend to be someone they're not. They should manage networking by leaning into their own strengths and experience.
Put down seeds with your own connections
Every person has enough connections to get a professional network started. For introverted people, this means connecting with friends and colleagues who they're familiar with and getting them to connect you with their own friend and colleague groups.
"Introverts know people who know a lot of people, so they should ask them 'I'm wondering, who do you think I should have on my radar now? What companies do you think I might want to be looking at or which one do you think I should be paying attention to?' It's not asking the other person to go out of their way to put their reputation on the line. It's just offering a few ideas." This type of friendly, nonconfrontational behavior almost always gets a positive response and is a good headway into your search, Alwin says.
Organize your way to professional intimacy
Because introverts establish deep, personal connections, networking outreach always helps them manufacture good job leads. "They don't have frivolous relationships," Alwin says. And that's also why they tend to remember the importance of networking touches, like wishing a former colleague a happy birthday, through good personal and professional organization. That means creating calendar reminders to catch friends' webinars, reading former colleague's LinkedIn posts and creating labels for important emails from them.
Alwin says colleagues appreciate people paying attention to their career, their communication, and sometimes even their personal life, so connecting with them intimately and then switching to a professional conversation about a job won't feel weird.
"What doesn't work effectively in networking is when somebody just sends an email and says, 'Hey, I'm looking for a job,'" she says.
Prepare communications messaging
Introverted people do need a plan when communicating with extroverted people, especially those in hiring offices who conflate outward boastfulness with confidence and success. That's why Alwin suggests working with a career coach to ensure they learn how to ask and answer questions affirmatively and clearly, reflecting their own skills and knowledge as well as their personality.
"They need to work with somebody who's really listening to how they communicate. So that they do stand out and they don't get overlooked or passed over for that person who's the strong communicator."
Prepare personal physical messaging
Introverts can catch up to and surpass extrovert candidates in job interviews if they excel at physical messaging cues that signal competence, preparedness and intelligence, says Alwin. These cues include those that involve aesthetics, like improving your physical presence on a video or in-person interview, technical ones like learning how to properly use interview software tools and administrative ones such as always being on time.
You could start prep for physical messaging improvements by slowly getting acclimated with public interviews. You could prep at home, move it to a crowded coffee show (when that's allowed) and eventually conduct a full interview with questions in the closest approximate environment of your real interview. "Think of yourself in that realm with noises that are going to be happening in the interview. Same with video interviews. How is your technology? Where are camera angles? All the little things matter," Alwin says.
Reach a numbers goal
Alwin says there is value in numbers when it comes to networking for introverts. That means having a goal for the number of people you want to talk to per week and then hitting it. While extroverts won't even pay attention to the number of people who they talk to in any week, reaching a number they are comfortable with will feel like a win for introverts.
"When it comes to numbers, reaching out to more people is good," she says.