Networking for Introverts and Beginners

March 8, 2021 | Teresa L

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Networking can be useful for your career growth but it doesn't come naturally to everyone. Ken Lee, one of our Career Coaches in Residence, shares some insights on how to make networking seem less daunting.

The Career Coaches in Residence program offers remote career and job search help for younger adults (18 to 29) from Feb 1, 2021 to Apr 9, 2021. Book a free appointment today. 

Ken Lee
Ken Lee, Toronto Public Library Career Coach in Residence

 

Networking can be overwhelming, so here are three tips to consider when you’re first starting out.

 

1. Listen

The best networkers are not only talkers, but listeners. That is, you don't need to drive the conversation, but you can listen and ask questions. Think about asking people probing and/or clarifying questions. Probing questions get the speaker to think more deeply about what they shared, while clarifying questions help address any uncertainties.

Examples of clarifying questions:

  • Did I hear you share…?
  • Did I understand you when you expressed…?

Examples of probing questions:

  • How did you confirm…?
  • How did you learn…?

Putting this into practice, if you were attending a virtual panel discussion, you could ask a question like “Thank you for sharing your career transition from engineering to marketing. How did you decide marketing was a better fit for you?”

By asking these types of questions, people will feel listened to, which will leave a strong first impression.

 

2. Gamify

Try to apply elements of playing a game to networking to make it fun. Think about quests, which is a task you need to complete to gain a reward.

How does this work? Let’s say a virtual networking event is coming up, for example like our recent Explore Creative Careers panel. First, ask yourself, “What is my goal?”. From learning about a sector to insights on the company culture, everyone has a different reason for networking. Your goal will be your quest.

Once you’ve worked out your goal, it’s now time to set out how you plan on achieving it. If you’re new to networking, it’ll make sense to set achievable and realistic action steps as you build your confidence. For example, an action step could be “Once I have engaged in one conversation with a professional I can follow up with, I can leave the event.” As you gradually build your comfort level, you can increase the number of conversations. In other words, as you practice a skill, you’ll gain more experience in it, and in turn the more confident you will be using it.

Now, any quest always ends with an appropriate reward given the difficulty of the task. Only give yourself rewards you have earned though. (Don’t skip this part!)

Overall, try to make networking fun!

 

3. Online Communities

If you’re not ready to engage in ‘real time conversations’ look into online communities on Slack channels, as well as social media platforms such as Twitter and Reddit. This can be a powerful way to find like-minded individuals and build real relationships. At the same time, it can give you more time to process the information and come up with a response.

You can also find online communities that reflect your interests on Hive Index or Meetup.

Looking to read more about how to improve your networking skills? Check our books on networking.

For more resources, visit our Job & Career Help page.

 


The Career Coaches in Residence program is generously supported by RBC Foundation, and the Friends of the Toronto Public Library, South Chapter. 

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