An Introvert's Guide to Networking
Have you ever seen posts that claim networking is easy and you just have to go to events and put yourself forward? And if you're even a little bit of an introvert yourself, you may have felt the dread of the thought of you meeting with new people - and face to face! Besides, not everyone has the opportunity to attend events if they're not living in the big cities - does that mean they have to be excluded? Thankfully, the internet made a common ground for everything, and using it to network with other amazing people is maybe easier than ever!
But of course, we don't have the advantages face-to-face networking has to offer - however, there are ways to form meaningful relationships through virtual networking. On the other hand, we have the potential to reach a wider audience through online networking.
How do I know this? Because I too am terrified of those situations and still want to expand my network!
So I compiled 5 steps I personally use for networking that works best for me. I believe those steps can be useful if you want to keep online networking just as effective.
1. Identify your goals
Meaningful interactions begin with meaningful intentions.
Certainly, not every interaction requires profoundness - sometimes we simply aim to establish connections for the sake of it. But this article covers the meaningful ones!
Start with identifying your needs and goals. Why do you want to network, is it for new job opportunities, building new friendships with similar positions and mindsets, receiving feedback, or maybe simply for future opportunities you may benefit from them?
For example, if you're looking for new job opportunities, it would be wise to connect with recruiters in companies you want or you may want to connect with previous employees to learn from their past experiences.
When you identify your goals, think about what are you aiming for. What would be a positive/ideal outcome from this connection? What are you expecting, realistically?
It's important to recognize your expectations and how realistic are they. You may expect to receive a job offer as an outcome of the connection but that would obviously be a far reach - and you may be disappointed if you don't receive anything other than a kind reply!
2. Make yourself appealing
Think about the times you received networking requests from profiles without a photo, a heading with lots of typos, and hardly anything to display their personality. I'm not making any assumptions about them, they might not have the time to update their profile - but you most likely ignored or declined the request.
And why is that?
Because even if it's abundantly clear that you won't be the benefiting party in this connection, you expect little something in return. It can be an occasional post of them you may see on your feed, their comments on posts you'll like to see, or even their connections that might end up being recommended to you.
Now, go to your profile - your very own showcase among the endless amounts of profiles - would you want to be in your network?
And it doesn't even have to be about your profile and someone's possibility of accepting your networking request. We still are talking about meaningful interactions!
If you truly want to build a profound connection with someone, you'd want to be able to have small talk with them, right?!
In short, be appealing and have something to offer!
3. Build your strategy
When it comes to building relationships and expanding your network, it's always good to start by seeking out people who share common ground with you. Just like birds of a feather flock together, people who share similar traits tend to gravitate towards each other.
Finding others who share your age, mindset, school, or culture can be a great way to get started. Not only are these individuals likely to be more understanding and empathetic towards your experiences and perspectives, but they'll also appreciate the recognition of being connected with someone who understands their own background.
It's important to remember that starting small and building relationships with individuals who share your commonalities is key. It's easy to be drawn to the allure of connecting with high-level executives, but the truth is that they may be inundated with messages and may not have the time to regularly check their inbox.
Take it slow and focus on building strong roots. Instead of sending out a bunch of invitations all at once, it's much more meaningful and effective to build genuine, long-lasting relationships with a few key individuals.
So message the interns and juniors, recognize their effort, appreciate the work that made you want to connect with them, and try to build a relationship!
Trust me, your network will be better off for it!
4. Copy + Paste? No, thanks!
When it comes to networking, it's always a good idea to take a little time to get to know the people you're interested in connecting with. After all, they're more than just potential additions to your network - they're human beings with their own interests, experiences, and backgrounds.
So, if you're considering reaching out to someone and asking them to join your network and start a professional relationship, why not take a minute to learn a bit more about them first?
Read through their profile, check out some of their recent posts, and get a sense of what they're all about. And don't forget to mention your thought on them!
By doing a little bit of research, you'll be able to craft a more personalized invitation that shows the person you're reaching out to that you're truly interested in connecting with them.
Plus, who doesn't love feeling cared about?
Remember, though, that networking is a two-way street. While you might have your own goals and objectives in mind, it's important to treat the people you're connecting with respect and kindness.
Don't demand things, make unreasonable requests, or act entitled to their time or attention.
At the end of the day, networking is about building meaningful relationships and creating opportunities for growth and success. By taking a thoughtful and human-centered approach, you'll be well on your way to building a strong, supportive network that will serve you well in the long run.
5. Define your tone
When reaching out to connect with someone, take a moment to get to know their online presence a bit better.
Look at their profile, read their comments, and pay attention to their tone and attitude. This can give you valuable insight into how best to approach them and what kind of tone to use in your message.
Remember, you're the one making the first move here, so it's important to strike the right balance in your message.
You don't want to come across as too rigid or formal, but you also don't want to be too overly friendly or excited. Find a way to strike a comfortable and professional tone that will make them feel comfortable responding to your request to connect.
Bonus: Pay it forward
Spread the love and pay it forward!
It's always great to feel appreciated and supported, and networking is one way to help others feel that way too. Even if you haven't received any network invitations yet, there's a good chance you will in the future. So, take this opportunity to show your gratitude for the times you have benefited from networking in the past.
Don't forget that building a strong network is not just about receiving help or support, but also about giving it.
So, be sure to support and help others in your network as much as you can. Whether it's through providing valuable insights and advice or simply acknowledging their achievements and milestones, your efforts will go a long way in making them feel appreciated and valued.
And don't forget to engage with your network even after adding them.
Keep the conversation going by responding to their posts, asking how they're doing, and congratulating them on their successes. Networking is a two-way street, so make sure to give as much as you receive and you'll see how it benefits you both in the long run.
In the height of cold, distant, and not-so-eager-to-help social media, the individuality it brought - I was so lucky to meet so many amazing people through LinkedIn and Instagram. Some of them became my friend that I enjoy talking to, some of them helped me grow as a designer, some of them gave me feedback that *literally* changed my life, and many more!
I'm not the best one to teach about networking - just really doing it for the past year! - I believe those steps are a great way to start, besides, I'm sure I used some advice from other people I don't recall right now! (And so very sorry about it - let me know if you think I was *heavily* inspired by your post!)
Thanks for reading and happy networking!