Are people always telling you that you need to “come out of your shell?” Find yourself leaving social gatherings early (or wishing that you could) because you’re tired of small talk and would rather be alone than mingle? Those are some of the classic signs that you are an introvert.
I’m one myself. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, it can take a toll on your career. That’s because anywhere from 50 – 75 percent of jobs are filled through personal and professional connections without ever being advertised publicly.
If you don’t keep in touch with people you’ve worked with and let your network know how your career is going and when you’re open to new opportunities, you could be missing out on many of the great options that are available.
Don’t worry. Networking isn’t about wearing name tags at business events and giving people the gun salute across a crowded room. (Although attending conferences and industry events can be good for your career.)
Networking isn’t an activity you suddenly do when you find yourself out of a job. It’s career maintenance that starts from your very first job and continues throughout your working life. It starts with your professional reputation. You build this by demonstrating a positive work ethic, showing up and time, being willing to learn and being pleasant to work with.
Even those basics impress coworkers and get noticed by employers. People will want to work with you again at future opportunities or recommend you to others. Those are the beginnings of your network (and didn’t have to schmooze once.)
Your family, friends, people you went to school with, and those you interact with regularly are all also a part of your network.
Keep in touch with your network. Social media has made this easier. While it might be awkward to call up an old boss just for a chat, you can connect with them on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. The same goes for past coworkers. That way you can update your network about how your work is going, and keep track of them as they move from company to company. (Most people change jobs roughly every two years now.)
Pay it forward. Networking is a two-way street. Look for chances to help people you know with their career dilemmas or to connect them with opportunities. Zig Ziglar famously said that “You can get everything in life you want if you help other people get what they want.” This is never more true than when it comes to networking.
Be yourself. It’s okay to be an introvert. You don’t have to pretend to be some super outgoing ‘life-of-the-party type’ in order to network. It would likely just come across as phony if it isn’t you. Genuinely listen to other people, and talk about the things that are important to you.
Manage your professional reputation carefully, so that those who know you think well of your work ethic and abilities. When you are between jobs or looking to make a change, let your network know. You never know which friend of a friend might be in a position of influence at the company you want to work for.
That’s how you find the unadvertised opportunities. No schmoozing is required.