Networking is difficult for most people but if you’re shy it can feel impossible.
Laura is really good at her job. In fact, Laura can do anything she puts her mind to. She has a list of accomplishments a mile long. But she is dreadfully unhappy at her job in a fast paced consulting firm. She feels like folks walk all over her because she is so nice and so good at her job.
Finding joy in your work starts with knowing what you want. Laura knows what she wants. She wants:
1) To get out of her current company.
2) To translate her experience into human resources.
Both are eminently doable.
There are several ways to find the job that brings you joy. Responding to advertisements is sort of like taking pot luck. You might find the right job or you might not, depending on which organization responds to your resume.
Folks trying to change careers, even a little, usually get better results from networking. Their resumes don’t always appear like an obvious fit with just a cursory glance. Networking allows you to check out the fit before you get too far into the search. Less pot luck, more pick.
If you are a shy person like Laura, finding joy in your work can be a problem. If you are lucky, you find job in the job you have. You get enough positive feedback and rewards to make a life. If you are a shy person like Laura and want to leave your job, you have a problem.
The minute I said the n-word – networking, Laura died a little inside. You see, Laura is a shy person. She is wonderful one-on-one or in small groups. She can even speak in front of groups as long as she is confident in her topic and knows enough people in the room to be comfortable. But don’t ask her to network.
What is networking after all?
According to the Business Dictionary, networking is “creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit.” This means talking to people you don’t know well. Laura and other shy people just HATE that. But it must be done if one is to avoid taking pot luck in the career game.
I come to these observations naturally, from personal experience. Here are some tips for networking for shy people:
- Start small. Build off of your current network of people you know very well. Start by asking questions. Ask them what they do and what their company is like. After a while it will get easier to talk to people you do not know.
- Figure out questions that will get the other guy talking. When they are talking you are not. This takes the pressure off of you to carry the conversation, something that is very hard for shy people. Early in my career I would prepare for days to identify potential questions, sports references or news highlights I could use to get other people talking.
- Talk professional to professional about topics in which you have a great deal of confidence. For example, if you are an HR person interested in talent development, talk to other HR people about talent development. You will feel confident and look impressive because it is a topic in which you are knowledgeable.
- Ask people you know well to make an introduction to someone else. Or give you the name of someone else you can talk to. It will be less scary if you can, “Tom suggested I connect with you”.
- Use LinkedIn. LinkedIn is networking for shy people. All your interactions can be done on email which is normally less intimidating than telephone or in-person.
The trick for shy people is to set manageable goals. Don’t force yourself to do more than you are capable or comfortable doing. With that said, doing nothing is not an option. Set realistic meaningful daily, weekly and monthly goals that will move you forward towards your goal.