For introverts, attending a networking event may be unappealing and nerve-wracking. While shyness doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with introversion, introverts tend to have at least one thing in common with shy people: Large groups and conversations just aren’t their cup of tea. See how to succeed and shine during networking events and interviews, even if your introverted self would prefer to sit them out entirely.
Network on your own terms
During interviews and networking events, it can feel like so much is outside of your control. But you’re not without power when networking — and even when interviewing for jobs.
If you dislike large groups, arrange for one-on-one informational interviews and conversations. When interviewing for positions, get as much information as possible beforehand — who will you meet? what are their titles? how much time is reserved for your interviews? — so you can visualize and prepare for the conversation.
A big part of being successful as an introvert — whether its at the office or in your social life — is knowing yourself, and how you tick. If you tend to run on empty after meeting with a stranger for the first time, or if you rarely attend big group events, avoid back-to-back interviews and networking events.
Maintain the conversation
Whether you’re interviewing or networking, the fundamental action is the same: You’re meeting and talking with strangers. Even for extroverts, and folks spilling over with small talk, this can be a challenge. Make it easy on people: Have a few small-talk type questions at the ready and when possible, do your homework. Meeting with a CEO for a startup who sold his previous company in college? That’s juicy! Don’t be nosy or inappropriate, but be prepared to ask questions and make conversation about that experience.
Interview a lot
One of the big challenges of an interview can be the unexpected question. But go on enough interviews, and you’ll start to find that the questions form a familiar pattern. At the heart of it, interviewers are eager for fundamental information about you: Where have you worked before? What have you accomplished? What kind of person and worker are you, and what will you bring to the company? While not every interview will be the same, you’ll start to hear a lot of “tell me about yourself” and “where do you see yourself in five years” given enough conversations.
Practice with friends, read answers in front of the mirror, and interview as much as possible. Don’t be picky: Even interviews for jobs that don’t seem like a good fit could ultimately lead to something interesting — and even if they don’t, the interview will give you valuable experience.
Use your thank-you note
You’re sending a thank you note, right? You should always (always, always) send a thank you note after an interview, coffee date, or anytime someone takes time out of their day to chat with you about a job, company, or industry. That’s just good manners. But don’t think of it as a pro forma gesture: More than extroverts, introverts are likely to be visited by 3 a.m. realizations of the perfect response they could have given to a unexpected or challenging question. Use the thank you note as your space to expand upon your answer, providing more details, pizzazz, or whatever was missing from your original response.
Do your best Stuart Smalley
You don’t have to be an introvert to feel a little bit uncomfortable talking yourself up. For introverts, though, this necessary part of a conversation can also feel incredibly unpleasant.
Before going to interviews, meetings, and events, remind yourself of your value. Sure, this can feel forced and cheesy, but even if it requires a Stuart-Smalley-like self-affirmation in front of the mirror, this self-encouragement can make it easier to showcase your strengths during an interview. Once you’re in the interview, speak from the “I,” avoiding the royal we, and weave mentions of your accomplishments and favorite projects into your responses.
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