Networking for Introverts
By Kori Clay
You want to become an anchor at CNN? Network. You want to write for Ebony Magazine? Network. You want to become a producer on Scandal? You guessed it, network.
The idea of communicating and fostering relationships with complete strangers may seem scary, especially for introverts. Trust me, I know. I can name numerous times where I faltered and completely missed social cues in a conversation and wanted to immediately retreat; however, I didn’t. Persistence is key and the best thing that you can do when you fall flat on your face is to get back up.
No matter what major you’re pursuing in college, all of them require you to have strong interpersonal skills. Knowing the right people can open doors that you wouldn’t have even imagine. Truth be told, networking doesn’t have to be this intimidating task. You can make it easier by weaving networking into your everyday interactions. Here are some great places to start:
Find a professional organization you love.
Whenever you meet a complete stranger, there’s always this game of back and forth where you try to find commonalities. When you join an organization in college, you skip the awkward game and can talk more fluidly. Joining a professional organization allows you to network with people from across the country; so that when you do move to different cities, it’s easier to expand your network.
Chat with your classmates.
Believe it or not, the people sitting next to you in your class are perfect networking opportunities. Starting the conversation can be as simple as saying hello. When you genuinely express interest in someone, they’ll be more willing to help you in the long term, whether that be professionally or academically. I want to emphasize genuinely getting to know someone. Relationships built for the sake of climbing to the next level are doomed from the start. Establishing the foundation of authenticity creates a way for the relationship to flourish years down the line.
We’re in the digital age where meeting someone online and asking to have a cup of coffee is the norm. Linkedin is a professional website dedicated to connecting professionals. It can be a powerful tool if used correctly. You can connect with others who are in job positions that you want and message them directly on LinkedIn. I’ve messaged people before and it has worked on several occasions.
Follow Up. Follow Up. Follow Up.
Creating relationships is the fun part of networking. The challenging part is maintaining those relationships over time. I received a piece of advice on being persistent and following up on contacts. I was told to always send thank you emails within 48 hours of meeting. People, especially working professionals, are busy and forget easily. Thanking and reminding them of your meeting helps them to remember you.
After the thank you email, keep in contact once a month. Maybe it’s an article you saw that reminded you of them. Send it. Similar to sending a thank you email, following up once a month helps people to remember you. So when the time comes around and you need their help, they’re more willing because you genuinely expressed interest in getting to know them. Networking can seem daunting at first. But with practice, you'll be a pro in no time.