When it comes to developing your IT career, networking at events is one of the best ways to expand your prospects, clarify your direction and secure referrals for new IT jobs. However, not everyone is naturally comfortable approaching strangers in a professional context. Introverts, though not necessarily shy, can find networking difficult as they tend to be more reserved and prefer to think things through in social situations. Yet that doesn’t mean that introverts can’t benefit from networking in their careers – rather that they may need to approach it in a different way than an extrovert would. When it comes to networking for introverts, success is about playing to your strengths, planning ahead and taking small steps in the right direction.
Before the start of an IT event, set time aside to think up ice breakers to help generate conversations. The hardest thing for many introverts is to strike up a dialogue (especially with strangers). Having something on hand will make it easier to build connections. For example, consider talking about a new development in the Tech industry. Most people love talking about themselves – their work and hobbies, their family, etc. – so that’s another good place to start.
Don’t forget there also needs to be some give and take in a conversation, so think about what you’ll share about yourself as well. Come up with a short introduction about who you are and what you do. This can be a helpful ‘go to’ intro if you get anxious or can’t remember the rest of your ice breakers.
If the nerves hit beforehand, try practising in front of a mirror or with a close friend. Even if you don’t feel confident, you can ‘fake it till you make it’ and eventually, confidence will follow.
Take the Pressure Off
Although major IT conferences and events are great places to network, not everyone feels comfortable in these environments – and that’s okay! Don’t feel pressured to step into situations you’re not ready for. An alternative could be to organise a casual one-on-one chat with an industry peer over coffee some time or look at Tech meetups in your local area. Keeping things simple and taking the pressure off can be just as valuable for building a connection, if not more so. Remember that you don’t always have to go it alone: bringing along a friend or colleague can make it less intimidating.
Don’t psych yourself out with unrealistic expectations. After all, one quality conversation is better than 20 superficial ones. Similarly, recognise that networking has mutual benefit for both parties, so don’t spend too much time worrying about making a good impression. It’s not about putting on a show – you have something to offer the other person too.
Slowly Step out of Your Comfort Zone
Though these networking tips are here to help, you don’t have to be a pro right away. Taking regular, small steps can go a long way towards making you more comfortable with networking. Practising at home is a good first step, but don’t forget that you have opportunities every day at work to flex those networking muscles.
Once a week, try walking around and socialising with colleagues during a break. Make a special effort to step outside your comfort zone and talking to people beyond your regular social circle. Eventually, you can work up to setting improvement goals for yourself; for example, try aiming to meet with two people you know and two you don’t know within the next quarter.
Likewise, if you’re talking with a group at a Tech event, look for opportunities to speak up, or branch off and start up a conversation with somebody one-on-one. There are always chances to speak with people in more comfortable numbers until you feel ready to tackle a larger group.
In the end, successful IT networking for introverts all comes down to having a plan, practising until you feel ready and knowing when to ease things off. With these professional networking tips in mind, any introvert can take the steps needed towards reaching a bigger audience and making their voices heard in the industry.
Do you have any networking experiences to share? We’d love to hear from you. If you’re looking for your next IT job or would like support with the job search process, contact the team at Enterprise IT Resources.Search job Contact Us