Networking in a room full of people can be daunting and challenging for an introvert, like myself. It takes a lot of effort and energy to be present, initiate, and lead conversations from one stranger to the next. There are plenty of us who feel the same way, but I’ve found that it is a crucial step for growing your connections and your next job search. It’s also a great way to meet like-minded and interesting people, like CPRS members locally and across the country.
While networking is normally done in person over coffee, at conferences, and events, social distancing has fast-tracked us to find digital solutions for this as well. In my experience onboarding people to connect virtually, I discovered that this was a less intimidating experience and possibly a better choice for introverts to network. If you’re an introvert, or if you work with introverts, here are some tips I found helpful to get started with online networking.
Always have a goal and be prepared with questions prior to attending any networking event.
Allocate some time for yourself to think through your end-goal or outcome of your conversation, why are you networking in the first place? What is your purpose? What interesting things might you learn by listening to others? I start by writing down an introductory sentence, prepare a list of open-ended questions and plan out my talking points. By making sure you have a solid goal and being prepared, the feeling of anxiety will be reduced significantly knowing there is a little cheatsheet ready. If you have trouble coming up with questions, hop onto Google and search for a list of informational interview questions. Ask about their career path, their role, and their advice.
Having a general guideline is helpful if you have trouble thinking on spot, like I do, at times. Part of what makes networking tough for me is coming up with things to say and maintaining the conversation. So be sure to practice out loud and put yourself in their shoes. This helps to see if any questions need to be rearranged and if transitions need to be added.
Find online networking events you’re interested in joining.
Leveraging online networking events allow us introverts to conserve energy compared to in-person meetings where you have to walk around and socialize. I personally feel much more empowered and comfortable when I am working behind my laptop because I can start, pause, and exit the meeting anytime. I can recharge and unwind at home without the need to travel to in-person events.
There are plenty of networking events held online all year round and many are free to join, like our upcoming cPRsips: Wine or whine virtual event. I recommend that you start your journey by surfing through Eventbrite. This is a popular platform used by organizers to create local and international events, including CPRS Vancouver events. You’ll be able to connect with people in your area and field of interest by navigating through category and event type. Many event organizers publish agendas and speaker line-ups in advance, so do some research and join ones that are interesting or beneficial to your career objectives. Other virtual networking platforms I suggest looking into are Meetup.com, LinkedIn Groups, and Facebook Groups. You’ll definitely have an interesting event to attend in no time.
Use your existing network for one-on-one sessions.
If you do not feel comfortable joining an online group event yet, I suggest reaching out to your friends and existing network to see if they can help introduce you to their connections. Even if you don't get any recommendations right away, they might be thinking of you down the road if they know you are actively looking to make new connections. Another important tip is to stay active on LinkedIn and interact with people in your field of interest—introduce yourself, let them know why you want to connect, and ask if they are available to chat. This is an awesome way to expand your network and I appreciate doing one-on-one networking because it feels more personal. Having one-on-one sessions also helped me practice interpersonal skills and build my confidence to network in larger group settings. It is a great opportunity to show off listening skills and make solid connections.
Finally, make sure to reward yourself. You deserve every bit of it after meeting so many people. Indulge in self care—eat your favourite food, watch some Netflix, take a walk, or read a book. Do what makes you happy!
I hope this will help some of you feel more confident to start networking and hopefully result in an positive experience that might encourage you to do it again in the future.
Graduated with a BA in Communication from Simon Fraser University, Connie Lin is fascinated with all-things digital marketing and communications. She is driven and curious by the impact of the ever-changing landscape of digital media and technology on today’s audience. When she’s not writing, you can catch her at the hippest food joints in Vancouver.