Good networking advice is vital to career management and advancement. Not connecting with other professionals to exchange service and value makes your career and your aspirations appear futile. In Karen Wickre’s book, Taking the Work Out of Networking: An Introvert’s Guide to Making Connections That Count, she suggests connecting is empowering and can “embrace your quiet side.”
People may favor the casual networking culture of Facebook, but they typically go to LinkedIn for business-centered relationships. But both Facebook and LinkedIn are valuable networking platforms for those who are advancing their careers. Networking on those platforms isn’t an event, nor does it require a big production — something that introverts appreciate.
Introverts are not looking to draw attention to themselves, or march in a procession in celebration of their career accomplishments. They look for the practical but worthwhile intel they can use to advance their careers. Making quality connections is essential to optimize the opportunities networking potentially offers. While many professionals think the number of connections matter more, it may be better to value the quality of connections over quantity. Quality connections genuinely and generously offer and facilitate value. A quality connection is like a chef who cares that their steak is succulent — not just if it’s done. And LinkedIn is the tool introverts can use to exploit their superpowers because they can listen, grasp, and use what they need despite the clamor.
I recently explored how introverts and others can create a valuable network of professionals:
1. Quality connections breed genuine communication.
All professionals who are using LinkedIn want to feel their connections have significance — use your outreach to foster that feeling. Wickre says, “You want context about why the connection is interesting and useful.” The “why” with potential connectors is essential to the quality of your experience. Send a connection note with your invite stating why you wish to connect. Your invite also displays your investment in fostering a quality relationship. Although this is not always the “terms of engagement,” knowing the reason for connecting offers the potential for effective engagement.
2. Quality connectors easily find you.
Wickre writes, “The LinkedIn URL often takes the place of the physical address on a resume or CV…for introverts and others who hate the idea of networking.” In other words, you can use the URL on business cards and your other profiles if you want to draw more attention to your accomplishments and personal attributes. You can control the narrative for your job search if your profile is saving your viewers time by showcasing your value at the outset.
3. Quality connections use keywords correctly.
Recruiters and employers are not the only ones who value the keyword search on LinkedIn. Your connections are using keywords to find quality connections for their peers, mentors, and others who will help increase the value of their timeline. The quality of your summaries saves professionals, especially introverts, energy to discern and recognize your importance. Your LinkedIn headline is the virtual handshake where you look someone in the eye for authenticity. Using the right keywords and good writing in your profile will attract the right connections and like-minded professionals.
4. Quality connections are your networking ecosystem.
You can create a network that doesn’t reflect phoniness, or insincerity and treat it, as Wickre calls it, like a “personal ecosystem.” Giving and taking should occur, even when you the one giving the most. Serving and volunteering are the new networking, and quality connections don’t mind contributing to your ecosystem. It’s likely your network will be eager participants and desire extended conversations with you.
5. Quality connectors value weak ties.
Professionals focus so much on their first- and second-tier LinkedIn connections and often discard third-tier connections (also known as weak ties). But while contacting a third-tier connection takes more work through LinkedIn, it doesn’t mean they lack value. Comments that resonate with you are a way to vet and discern the quality of the commenter for your network. If you see a comment on a post that does resonate, send a note with an invite stating how, and that you would love to connect as a first-tier connection.
6. Quality connectors make connecting personable.
I am fortunate to learn from the quality connectors in my tribe who are very busy, yet will not hesitate to get on the phone or video chat. In-person meetings today are powerful experiences, especially when many business and personal interactions take place online. Some introverts feel great about a phone or person-to-person conversation, while others avoid it. If you are a professional who prefers less contact, do give the person suggesting the meeting just five or 10 minutes to talk. This not only makes you memorable, but it also keeps you top of mind when you are ready to advance your career.
7. Quality connections know the end game.
Staying engaged in your career advancement, even when you love the company you work with, is the new job search. One of the ways to stay informed about technology and industry changes is to participate in the discussion at large. If you’re on a sailboat going in one direction toward a destination, but the wind suddenly changes, wouldn’t you want to know? Would you reach your destination if the boat changes direction? Similarly, your career would end up going in a different direction if you ignore industry changes. And smooth transitions in your career have everything to do with your network. Spend even just 10 minutes a few times a week engaging in these conversations, whether through LinkedIn or directly with a peer.
The best networking advice for introverts: focus on quality connections.
Quality connections watch and listen for your efforts in conversations, answers to questions, and your opinion. From there they can deem you as a “colleague” and even collaborate with you. People will join in more often and offer help when you have multiple deposits of kindness, helpfulness, and thoughtfulness. And guess what: You may not need to attend that annoying networking event in your area. You’ve already engineered a referral system that continues to propel your career.
Mark is a career advice writer and career consultant. He writes about careers, HR, and the workplace. He contributes to Payscale, FlexJobs, and Recruiter.com career blogs.
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