4 Ways to Network as an Introvert
Trying to network as an introvert can bring up feelings of dread, fear and nervousness. Event though the general stereotype of scientists being introverts is not necessarily true, often, the nature of scientific work doesn’t require the same type of human interaction compared to say, the corporate world. As someone with a science degree, whether you have worked in academia or not, the type of work you have been trained to do may not lend itself naturally to networking. Whether you are an introvert or just not used to it, networking is something you may try to avoid.
But what is networking and why do we do it? Lots of people would define this differently, and it really depends on what you want to achieve. In a broad sense, networking can be defined as building and nurturing relationships with a range of people. You can have both professional and personal networks, and sometimes these can overlap. The type of people in your network and the way you nurture these relationships depends on your personal and professional goals. Sometimes, you may have a specific aim, like seeking a new job. Other times, you may want to meet someone who can collaborate with you on a project. Although it is good to have these specific goals, remember that building relationships in general is smart, even when you don’t have a specific aim. Making connections with people is something you should be doing throughout your career and life, as you never know when you can draw on them.
Also remember that it’s always a two-way street, so think about how you can help someone else first. Once you know why you are networking, the next question is: are there alternative methods to network as an introvert? Initially, the word may conjure up images of large rooms filled with hundreds of people chatting and mingling. You might imagine yourself having to dress smartly and be ready to impress someone with something you have prepared to say. Although this type of networking does exist, it’s not the only way to go about building relationships.
Here are 4 alternative methods to network as an introvert:
Online Social Media Groups
In today’s digital world, there are a number of online groups you can join with like-minded individuals. Many of these groups are specifically formed for sharing industry knowledge or job opportunities. For professional networking, LinkedIn and Facebook are the top choices. You can search for groups specific to your industry or the industry you would like to move into. Sometimes, these groups have entry requirements where you have to answer some questions before being allowed in.
Once you have joined, the way to take advantage of this network is to interact with others and share relevant content. This means sharing articles or insights with the group members that may be interesting to them. Or, it could mean commenting on others’ posts with your own knowledge or answer to their question. Have a look through the group initially to see what type of content others share. Aim to interact with the group once a day to show that you are an active member of the community. Focus on helping others with what you share and it will be much easier to build those connections.
At your current place of work or study
If you are currently working or studying, you already have people around you that could be valuable connections in your career. If you want to get an insight into a particular role, ask someone in that job for a 1:1 conversation at lunch or over a coffee. Those with more introverted personalities tend to be more comfortable in 1:1 situations. It can take the pressure off and allow you to really get to know someone without other interruptions. Be prepared with questions you want to ask the other person, which will depend on what your aim is. Also think about what you could offer them in return, and make sure you follow up afterwards with a thank you. Creating a connection is important, and nurturing that connection is what will keep it alive.
Family and Friends
You already have a huge network and you don’t know it! Your family and friends all make up your personal network, and some of them may be able to offer you valuable career advice directly. However, what can be even more valuable is who they know in their own network. To network as an introvert, you may be worried about approaching people you don’t know. Getting a referral from someone you already know can ease this pressure as you already have a connection. Your friend or family member can make an introduction. They can tell the other person a little bit about you and what you’re looking for beforehand.
Those big scary networking events were mentioned at the start, and they are still a great way to meet people. Websites like Eventbrite and Meetup.com are a great source of get-togethers for people with similar interests. How can you approach these in a way that makes you more comfortable? Firstly, the fact that you are meeting up with others who have similar interests means you are likely to have things in common and talking points that will naturally come up. Next, rather than approaching the event with an aim to receive something, think about what value you bring to others. Other attendees are there seeking some kind of help, advice or collaboration, and you may be the source of that for them. Approaching it this way puts you in a position of value and knowing that you have something to offer can make you feel less nervous. You can also come prepared with a set of questions you know you want to ask people, so you’re not lost for words from the start. Another way to approach these events is to focus on meeting just one person. If you can build a connection with just one person, then the event was a success!
Forming a network as an introvert can seem like a scary prospect. Choose one method from the above and focus on that. Find out where the people you want to interact with hang out. Are they online? Do they go to regular events? Or are they already around you in your workplace? Maybe your friends and family have connections that would be useful to you. Make networking a habit and look at it as building relationships that you nurture over the long term. Once you do this, it will no longer be scary and instead will become a natural part of your professional development!
If you are ready to take your career outside the lab and want to know how to start, book a Beyond the Lab Breakthrough Session here.