Despite being an important part of the modern business environment, networking can be a challenging undertaking for some – especially those who are a little more introverted than others. ManpowerGroup South Africa’s managing director, Lyndy van den Barselaar, says it is important to remember that the best job opportunities are not reserved for the outgoing.
“In today's competitive workforce it is important to develop powerful networking skills and position yourself to meet the right people at the right places; and while this can be more challenging for introverts or those new to the job market, there are ways to make it seem less intimidating,” she says.
ManpowerGroup South Africa provides the following tips for anyone wanting to become a better networker:
1. Practice your elevator pitch before you attend networking events.
“Your elevator pitch should describe you professionally and convey how you set yourself apart from others – essentially it’s a short summary of your personal brand,” explains van den Barselaar.
Many introverts feel tongue-tied, or lack the confidence they need to speak about themselves off the cuff. Practicing this introduction or pitch ahead of the event can help you to feel more at ease, and will ensure that you come off confident in your approach.
2. Invite people you want to know better to lunch or coffee.
“Introverts often prefer dealing with people one-on-one or engaging in small group settings. This can be used to your advantage,” says van den Barselaar.
When you meet someone that you would like to know better or who may be in a position to help you move ahead, invite them to lunch or coffee. Even if they decline, the invite itself will make an impression; and if they accept you'll have their ear for half an hour or so. That will make it easy to open the door to a career based discussion when the opportunity strikes.
3. Write notes on the backs of business cards and review them before your second meeting.
When you are handed a business card, make a note of the person and where you met them to help you remember the context. When you set up a second meeting with them, or know you’ll be seeing them again, review your notes. Then they'll be fresh in your mind and you'll have something to talk about.
4. Do your research.
“Before attending a networking function, do some research on the professionals or the organisations that are going to be there,” suggests van den Barselaar. “By simply using Google and LinkedIn you’ll discover that this kind of information is often readily available, and if you know who you’ll be mixing with, you’ll feel more confident in your approach.”
“Take advantage of networking events wherever and whenever you can to strike up meaningful career conversations and build important connections with people. You never know when these contacts may make all the difference in your career,” concludes van den Barselaar.