If you work in a recruiting or staffing agency, from time to time you’ll likely be asked to attend job fairs or networking events. Though it may seem as if all the pressure is on the attendees (job seekers), your boss probably expects you to collect a certain number of resumes and speak with a parade of prospective candidates.
If you’re an introvert who would prefer to be at your desk sifting through resumes and sending emails, how can you make the most of these opportunities and avoid underperforming or disappointing your firm?
The Best Ways to Make Networking Feel Natural
There’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. It just means you have to overcome a few hurdles that are not such a challenge to an extrovert. If you can make networking feel more natural and less forced (granted, that’s easier said than done), you can level the playing field and make yourself more effective on the job.
With job fairs and formal networking events in mind, here are nine essential tips to help you take action.
The number one step is to understand who you are and who you’re not. In other words, do you have a fairly good understanding of how you respond in particular situations?
The answer to this question is vital, because it enables you to confront specific issues you may face effectively. For example, if you know you have a tendency to stumble over your words when making an introduction, you can prepare by memorizing a set of introductory lines.
This may be enough to get you past the initial hurdle and overcome your anxiety in the future.
2. Do Your Homework Ahead of TimeZ
One of the biggest things introverts struggle with is confidence. This is usually less of an issue about how you feel about yourself as a person and more to do with your ability to communicate or feel secure in large social settings.
By doing your homework before you arrive at an event, you can instill confidence and feel better about being there. In terms of a job fair or networking event, this means studying up on particular job descriptions and preparing the right questions and answers.
3. Use Others to Facilitate Introductions
If you’re an extreme introvert and the thought of meeting someone new feels threatening, it can be helpful to have someone else facilitate the introduction. You can usually make this happen by pairing up with an outgoing individual and asking him or her to help you.
Having your helper say something as simple as “Hey, my associate would love to speak with you and learn more about your interest in the position” can go a long way in helping you overcome your nerves regarding the initial meeting.
4. Learn to Love Listening
As an introvert, your best skill may be listening. This should be good news for you, since it requires very little effort on your part and feels natural.
At networking events, take the time to ask good questions and encourage the person on the other side of the conversation to continue talking by giving feedback with facial expressions and occasional one- or two-word interjections.
Not only does this keep you in your comfort zone, but it’s also a great recruiting strategy. The more you can get candidates to talk, the more you learn about who they are, what skills they have, and what their shortcomings might be.
5. Have Pre-Established Ice Breakers
When you’re doing your homework for a networking event, it’s a great idea to come up with some icebreakers and “go-to” conversation starters. These are excellent tools for people who have trouble coming up with natural conversations on the spot.
Examples of good ice breakers include asking where a person is from, what his favorite sports teams are, or where she went to school. If you’re lucky, one of these questions will spark a conversation, reveal a common interest, or naturally feed into a job-related discussion.
6. Smile and be Personable
Nobody knows you’re uncomfortable about extending yourself in social settings unless you make it obvious. By forcing yourself to smile and be personable, you can project a warm and friendly vibe.
People will be more willing to come speak to you (as opposed to you always having to reach out to them). Eye contact and a simple hello can go a long way, as well.
7. Set Goals
If you’re an ambitious and determined type, it’s a good idea to set some goals. For example, you might set the goal of introducing yourself to 15 new people at an event.
This keeps you from losing focus and encourages you to make a concentrated effort to connect with people.
8. Find Your Networking Style
Were you aware that every person has a particular networking style? Examples include direct, expressive, supportive, and analytical.
By discovering yours and learning to identify other people’s, you can remove a lot of the ambiguity and understand how to approach each interaction more effectively. “If you sense that your styles are ‘opposite,’ don’t try to win them over by applying more emphasis on your style,” writes networking expert Jennifer Miller.
“Instead, think of modifying your approach a bit — as if you were moving yourself (communication-wise) more ‘towards’ their style.”
9. Ask for Help
When it comes to learning a new professional skill, you should never be afraid to ask for help.
Do you know someone who is really good at networking? Ask that person if he or she would be willing to sit down with you and discuss strategies and tips.
People love to give advice about capabilities at which they excel. The insights you gain can be incredibly valuable for your career.
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