by Alex Burns
I originally wrote this blog post to help introverts hone their networking skills online before taking it to in-person events. But given the fact that we’re now all working from home and practicing social distancing, these tips can be useful for just about everyone.
Networking at in-person events can be an intimidating idea, especially for introverts. It’s all handshakes and forced conversation, trying to build a connection without much being there. Luckily, though, there’s a different frontier for networking: online.
Not only do you get to meet new people and expand your network from behind the comfort of your computer screen, but you can actually reach much more specific people. Without any geographical or logistical restrictions, your networking opportunities are endless–you don’t have to wait to meet someone at a networking event, you can go out and introduce yourself online at any point in time.
Okay, you say, but how exactly are you supposed to network online as an introvert? The idea of reaching out to someone randomly is still terrifying.
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Here’s the deal: you should still be authentic, engaging, and unique, just like networking in person, but you can do it without all the pressure of face-to-face networking. You can take your time with cold pitches, perfectly crafting them. You can reach out to people you’ve never spoken to before without anyone else introducing you. And you can find some genuine connections by simply making new friends online
Still with me? Here are some of the best places to start networking online:
I’ll start with this one because it’s how I came to be a contributor on The Unconventional Traveler. I stumbled upon the Girlboss Network, still in its beta phase, and figured, why not. That’s the key with networking online–you need to frame everything as “why not.” Because not everything will pan out in a fruitful manner, but you just never know.
If you sign up to the Girlboss Network (which is free to join), try some of the following:
- Join a “Collection.” On the site, these are groups of like-minded people. For example, you might join the Los Angeles collection and also the Freelancing collection.
- From there, post an introduction. Tell the community who you are, what you’re great at, and what you’re hoping to accomplish. If you’re looking for new opportunities, say it. Someone may just help you out.
- Take the time to comment on other people’s comments and “admire” them (the Girlboss equivalent of a like) in order to grow your connections on the site.
I love how positive and female-focused this community is. From the moment I signed up, I noticed it was a welcoming space. As an introvert myself, I particularly liked that you could take a back seat and “admire” people while you get your bearings.
When networking online, finding places where you can feel comfortable is extremely important. The set-up on this site gave me the confidence to finally introduce myself, and that’s how I met Laurie and ended up here!
There’s pretty much a Facebook group out there for everyone. Even if you don’t post anything on your personal profile, participating in groups can be wildly helpful. You can find Facebook groups for writing, freelancing, business–anything you’re interested in. Some groups are specifically for finding jobs, but I suggest looking for groups that are more community-focused.
Rather than focusing on finding a job or a gig and then leaving a group, focus on building connections online, just like you would in person. This way, you’ll have a never-ending pool of relationships to call on next time you need something. You may not get an immediate tangible benefit, but you never know where one connection might lead.
A few ways you can help others and build connections within these groups:
- Share helpful resource pages.
- Applaud other people’s work.
- Engage by asking questions.
The key here is to keep your engagement about the group, rather than simply about yourself. There are always opportunities to promote your own work, but if that’s all you’re ever doing, you’ll be missing the point.
LinkedIn can seem intimidating and overly serious if you’re new to it, but it’s a great site to expand connections based on people you know already. This site takes advantage of the “friend of a friend” mentality, which makes it easier for introverts to navigate online networking.
Pay close attention to who your connections are connected with. Is there someone who you really admire or would love to have an informational interview with? If you have a connection in common, you can ask for an introduction. Take the pressure off yourself by having someone you already know help you make a connection.
If that’s not an option, then don’t worry. Just take a breath and craft a cold-message, mentioning any connections you may have. Some possible types of connections to explore:
- Are there any well-known alumnae from your university? See if you have any mutual connections.
- Did you work at the same company as someone else you admire in your field? It doesn’t matter if you were an intern and they worked there ten years before you. It’s something you have in common and might be able to connect over.
- Did you and someone you want to connect with both volunteer at similar organizations? Try connecting first over that volunteer work.
If you can find any type of connection as an excuse to open the door, seize it and reach out. You never know what they might say.
Take advantage of the opportunity to follow people you admire. Not just friends, families, and brands. Also, be sure to follow people who are in similar stages of life as you. Meaning, don’t just follow accounts with 10 million followers–those people in your industry who have “made it.” Find fellow aspiring people like yourself in whatever industry you’re in. These are the people who you can actually grow and learn with rather than just emulate.
Got it? Okay, now reach out! Respond to their posts. Interact with them. Send them a DM if you have something more personal to share. Be an active part of their community. One day they may return the favor and become an active part of yours.
Overwhelmed by all the options?
If you are unsure where to start in your efforts, try a few of these strategies:
- Download the Productive Job-Hunting Game Plan so you can gain clarity on your job hunt.
- Identify 3-5 areas of interest, then list 3-5 people in each field who you admire and follow them.
- Look at other people who follow them, people they follow, and suggested accounts.
- Explore those accounts and be open to new people; you never know who you might find and connect with.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re introverted or extroverted, just like networking in person, networking online is about building relationships. It’s not about gaining an immediate benefit.
Rather than asking people for things right out the gate, take the time to build relationships. Help them in the way you hope to be helped. Once you’ve established a genuine connection, then you’ll be able to make asks that people are actually willing to help with. It just requires you to put in the time and effort.
Assuming your networking goes amazingly well and you end up with new opportunities, keep a few things in mind:
- Be open to opportunities, but also be sure to triple-check the validity of things, especially when it comes to transferring money/personal information/content.
- Use contracts when working with others, even if they’re simple.
As with anything on the Internet, there are some phenomenal upsides to it, but be sure to do your due diligence. If it all checks out, then congratulations! Your online networking skills have paid off.
P.S. The quickest way to find a job is to have a strategy. So don’t forget to get a copy of the Productive Job-Hunting Game Plan.
Alex Burns is a freelance writer and consultant helping aspiring writers, millennial women, and anyone trying to better themselves a little bit day by day. You can find her at https://alexgraceburns.com.