Michael Jordan, Queen Elizabeth II, Warren Buffet, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Steven Spielberg, Mother Teresa, and Mohandas Gandhi all have something in common and it’s not just fame. Along with 30% of the population and 60% of gifted people, they’re all introverts. Are you?

The terms “extrovert and introvert” were originally conceived by the psychologist, Carl Jung, but have been largely misunderstood to mean the simple difference between loud and shy. Rather, extroverts derive energy from the outside world while introverts have enormously rich interior lives. Introverts are abstract and intense. They have a public and private self whereas extroverts have one face for all. This doesn’t mean introverts lack confidence or despise people. What it does mean is that social activities can cause anxiety for introverts. Bottom line, networking can seem like an introvert’s worst nightmare.

Many job seekers view networking as a frenzied process involving hundreds of phone calls, trolling for job leads. Networking isn’t about asking favors or begging for a job–or misrepresenting yourself by saying that you’re “not looking for a job.” Of course you’re looking for a job–it’s just that you don’t expect your contacts to know of (or have) any open positions at that time.

Networking is about building and maintaining relationships. It’s an evolving process, and you don’t have to be extroverted to be good at it. Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re developing relationships all the time. When you seek information or ask for an opinion, it’s technically networking. When you ask for a recommendation or information on a vacation destination or anything else–you’re actually networking.

It’s a major misconception that an extroverted personality is a prerequisite for success. Shyness and discomfort are sentiments germane to most job-seekers and career-builders. Extroverts and Introverts experience these same feelings, but handle them differently. Rest assured that Spielburg didn’t get promoted from uncredited Assistant Editor to one of the wealthiest filmmakers in the world. He had to get noticed. Getting noticed and getting remembered requires networking. There are aggressive and there are subtle networking techniques. It’s best to let your personality determine your style.

Understand Your Personal Style

Successful networking doesn’t require a personality makeover. Being a perceptive listener is both an introverted quality AND an essential relationship building quality. Case in point: Some introverts are very successful in sales because they are superb listeners; they have an ability to understand needs and develop relationships with customer, rather than trying to sell them a product or service. In fact, understanding your personality and communication style will improve your approach toward career conversations with people in your network

Networking Backdoors

Don’t Cold Call!

Introducing yourself with a letter and mentioning the person who referred you will create an immediate connection. Your letter’s already broken the ice when you call and say: “I’m following up on the letter I wrote to you last week;” then proceed from there. Make your calls when you feel upbeat. Perhaps, plan on making these phone calls after exercise.

PlayWrite!

Write a script and highlight key words to prepare for a networking phone call. Practice with a tape recorder, but don’t memorize each word. You want to have a conversational tone.

Action Speaks Louder Than Words!

Volunteer your time and skills at professional, recreational, community or other organizations. This will help you gain visibility while fostering new relationships more naturally and comfortably for your personality style.

Get Published!

Draw on your expertise and write articles for your association’s newsletter or other publications in your field. This will help you to establish name recognition that can lead to new relationships–and possibly job leads.

Cheers to Networking!

Join a Toastmasters group. This organization offers a non-intimidating avenue to meet and interact with others while enhancing your presentation/communication skills. Bring a buddy if you’re anxious. Or consider practicing career conversations with trusted people that you know rather than strangers. This may not only help keep your jitters in check, but can also teach you to be socially adaptable.

Online Networks!

Join an online discussion group. There are special-interest groups, news groups, chat rooms, web-based networks, forums and electronic mail lists on virtually every topic you can imagine. A few of the websites you can check out include: liszt.com, LinkedIn.com, deja.com/usenet, corporatealumni.com, industryinsight.com and sixdegrees.com. While joining an online discussion group is a great way to supplement your networking effort, remember that there’s no substitute for good old fashioned face-to-face exchanges.

Most of all, remember that you are not alone in your discomfort–no one enjoys searching for employment and having to contact people. To help, think of networking as a series of one-to-one career development conversations–conversations familiar to other people who have lost their position or have searched for a new one voluntarily. So, you are likely to meet many empathetic people who understand and share your feelings–and are inclined to help. Keep in mind that you don’t have to perfect it; you only need to learn how to network properly.

To quote Harvey Mackay, author of Rolodex Network Builder and other books:

“We don’t have to do it alone. Wherever we’re going, we all need the help of others to get there. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for what you need. That’s what your network is for? There are plenty of people out there waiting and willing to help. All they ask is that some day, some time, some place, you find a way to pass it on.”