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Dorie Clark considers herself an introvert and writes of her professional networking experiences in the Harvard Business Review. After attending numerous networking events, many of which she hated, Clark learned to network on her own terms and to make the process effective for her situation.

Kate Finley, contributor to Fast Company, explains that shyness is not the same as introversion. Introverts lose energy when confronted by social interaction, whereas shy people fear negative judgment. Despite this difference in character traits, Clark’s experiences and recommendations are applicable to both personality types. Here is some of her advice.

  • Choose your event. You may hate happy hours and loud bars, but a breakfast meeting with like-minded people to discuss an interesting subject might appeal. If you are not a morning person, skip breakfast meetings but attend quiet dinner events. Taking the initiative and organizing your own events can ensure that you will benefit from them.
  • With respect to invitations, consider how productive they will be. If you are unlikely to make any relevant connections, don’t force yourself to go. Similarly, a quiet lunch or dinner may offer you more chance of an informative conversation than a loud happy hour. Consider whether the attendees are individuals that you would like to meet.
  • Plan your schedule according to your tolerance levels. A day at a conference will leave you tired and in need of some alone time. Don’t plan more networking events for the following day. Plan to spend the time on independent projects to give you time to mentally prepare for future meetings. Get to know your preferred patterns and plan your work accordingly.

Josiah Mackenzie of Business Know-How suggests practicing small talk with friends and family. At social events, team up with a natural extrovert and he or she may introduce you to others. Look for individuals who seem to be on the periphery. They may be glad of someone to talk. Use a topical subject to break the ice, comment on the coffee or the food, or just hold out your hand and say, “Hello, I’m David.” Everything becomes easier with practice.

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