I am an introvert. Meaning I go full mime in unfamiliar social situations. This makes the “job hunt” a.k.a. “networking” a draining tragi-drama of Jacobean proportions. In this nepotistic, extrovert-loving society it’s all who you know. This rule can screw introverts, who usually have a “quality not quantity” friend circle mentality. Us introverts must hope our silence in social situations comes off as interesting, not awkward, and that our apparent seriousness attracts the illusive “connectors.” Having gone through this painful process before, and finding myself much more equal to the task in the round I’ve just begun in San Francisco, I have a list of suggestions for my fellows. These also work if you have the sort of boss that insists you network as part of your job.
First Suggestion. Do not go to networking events alone. Choose your partner well. Don’t be a duckling to a rutting peacock, you will feel self-conscious and awkward. Make sure it’s someone who actually wants to hang out with you. Going with another introvert can work well. Being awkward together is better than being awkward alone, and if you both know a person each, then you have networked, you may leave.
Second Suggestion. One glass of wine is plenty. Alcohol leads to so many inner voices in your head that you will trip, fall, drop, break, drool, sneeze and unintentionally insult. And feel like a total ass, and set yourself back just as you’re starting to gain confidence. Instead, think of scotch (or whatever) as your reward when you get home.
Third Suggestion. If you are at a networking event. Tell yourself you can leave after 15 minutes. Everything after that is a bonus. Do not add any more agony by pressuring yourself with numbers of business cards exchanged. Fuck it, you’re there, aren’t you? Good enough. Also, go to town on any free food. Might as well get a meal out of it.
Fourth Suggestion. Love coffee and lunch networking meetings. Mano a mano. So easy. Yes, scary, but not as scary as a seething room of people who all seem to know each other, and plus the other person might not be scared, and will confidently begin the small talk
Fifth Suggestion. Hilary Hodge’s Law: ask three questions. Any three questions. “Where’d you get that coat?” “When did you start work at _____.” “Is that a cyst?” Don’t use that last one. See next suggestion.
Sixth Suggestion. Pay attention to whatever the person your face is faced at is saying. Do not focus on alarming details and use that to go away in your mind. This is counter productive to the networking, to conversation, and to digesting your lunch/coffee if the detail is particularly off-putting. I have yet to have this last problem, but I foresee how it could occur.
Seventh Suggestion. Remember that you are not being literally strangled. Breathe. Breathe in the car, or while peeing. You can breathe, no matter how many strangers are yelling to each other about things they think are hilarious, and eying silent you suspiciously. You will not die, you will continue to breathe. Just focus on the breath. And the triple cream brie or mini-key lime pies, whatever they’re serving. Some networking events have better food than others. Just breathe and only attend the events with worthwhile food.
I hope these help. If you have any suggestions please do share.