Networking tips for an introvert

Q:  I am introvert.  I have been told to network.  How does a network introvert?  It is so anxiety-producing!  HELP.  The thought of walking into a giant room of strangers has me feeling sick.

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A: Networking is still a critical part of the job hunt puzzle.  According to a recent US Bureau of Labor Statistics report, about 70% of new jobs are still found through people who the job seeker knows.  Most outplacement firms also share this statistic to the job seekers with whom they work.  Networking is important.

Knowing that networking is essential to your job hunt, how does an introvert network?  Here are some tips.

  1. Hold yourself accountable. LinkedIn and your PC are useful tools. Make sure though you don’t spend all of your job hunting time behind a screen.  Aim for 75% of your time as networking time, while about 25% should be spent online.  Simple math means about four days of out of a work week should be spent networking!
  2. Update your LinkedIn profile A photo, a complete job history and a few recommendations are the bare minimum.  Your network of contacts will likely find you on Linkedin at some point in time.  To gain confidence, start small. Ask a neighbor for coffee. Invite your brother-in-law out for a beer.  Remember, it is not just the person in front of you that could be helpful.  It is their entire network of contacts.
  3. Consider events like meet up and other professional networking groups like the Acton Networkers  (www.actonnetworkers.com) and the Hopkinton Networkers group. Everyone is in the same boat. With a shared purpose, others will be empathetic and helpful.
  4. When you enter a large room at a networking event, don’t strive to shake every hand. Instead your goal should be 3 to 5 strong and meaningful contacts.
  5. Print business cards! They make it easier to approach a stranger.
  6. Practice your pitch. Jot down a 1 to 2 minute pitch.  Your pitch should include who you are and what type of job you hope to land.  Practice, practice and then refine and practice again.
  7. Send a thank-you note after every meeting.  An email thank-you note is fine in most instances.  People will remember that you sent a note.
Finally, after you land a job, be sure to be willing to connect with others who are job hunting.  Someone, some day will ask you how you landed your job.  Take the time and share what worked and what didn’t.  You will have some real-life experience to share!
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.

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