Devora Zack is the author of Networking for People Who Hate Networking.
Q: A lot of TechRepublic members consider themselves introverts, so networking for a job is really difficult for them. What are some of the "special techniques" you recommend for these people?
My book is really filled with a myriad techniques designed for introverts to network in sync with their natural strengths, rather than fighting against who they are. This is validating, energizing, and infinitely more productive for the 50% of the population who identify as introverts.
Until now, introverts have been hit over the head with a single set of rules for "successful networking" - rules that directly contradict the introvert's natural sensibilities. Seemingly, the only options are to behave falsely (an intolerable choice for an introvert) or to avoid networking altogether. Fortunately, now introverts can work with their strengths rather than assume they are doomed networkers.
The book offers techniques for numerous, typical networking situations - meetings and events, business travel, job searching, and so on. Here are a few samples:
Ask well-formed questions
Display a sincere interest in others. Inquiry into others' interests and backgrounds is a tremendous networking skill. People love when others display an interest in them, and introverts don't need to drum up ideas for typical, dull small talk. It is a brilliant networking strategy for introverts.
Prioritize your time, manage your energy. Shining bright at one event is smarter than straggling into every networking opportunity crossing your path. Grant yourself mini-recharge breaks at programs. Head outside for a breather, step away to refresh, decompress on a brisk walk, or check messages. Let go of what you should do; free yourself up to what appeals. You will be more appealing to others in the process.
Arrange in advance to help out. Many networking-haters are most comfortable when in a designated, structured role. Working the event provides you with a specific reason to engage with others, rather than poking around for small talk.
Get to events early
It is better to enter a room with a few people than one with a crowd packed close together. Gatherings are cozier near the beginning and participants more accessible.
If you aren't following up, you aren't networking. The time you invest in networking is wasted without follow-up. Write a personal note within 48 hours, while you still remember each other. Be useful - include an article link, provide relevant information, or connect your new acquaintance with a valuable resource. Want to really stand out? Mail a handwritten note. Because introverts are frequently gifted writers, this is an opportunity to shine.
Network on your own terms
As a previous networking-hater myself, I know you can exceed your wildest networking expectations while having a great time in the process.
Q: You introduce a new term in your book—centrovert. What exactly is a centrovert?
Until now, we have been limited to two descriptors on the introvert-extrovert temperament continuum. This dichotomy neglects slight introverts and slight extroverts. Centroverts can relate nearly equally to both extremes of the spectrum. The term centrovert reminds us that personality types have infinite variations and few of us are on the extreme end. More specifically, it provides centroverts with a better understanding of their own strengths. Those in the middle can be made to think they are somehow weak or wishy-washy. Instead, they are in the best position to mediate, negotiate, and collaborate simply because they have an inherent understanding of different styles that is more challenging for the rest of us to develop.
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.