An Introvert’s Guide to Building Career Connections

Career Advice
Introvert in the workplace
Introvert in the workplace
minute read

Fortunately, even for introverts, there are ways to go about your network building naturally and in a way that satisfies your desire to not always be the life of the party. These tips can help you make connections, even if you’re quiet by nature.

It’s no secret that building your career path depends at least in part on getting to know people who can help you on your journey. Whether you’re doing a casual informational interview or talking with people about what you want your next job to be, it helps to have networking skills. But many fields, tech included, attract the introverted type. That internal focus and drive can make you highly effective in many tech roles, yet it can also make connecting more challenging.

Fortunately, even for introverts, there are ways to go about your network building naturally and in a way that satisfies your desire to not always be the life of the party. These tips can help you make connections, even if you’re quiet by nature.

Find networking places that feel calming.

For a true introvert that takes energy from quiet, interior activities like reading at home, going to a huge networking event with numerous strangers, music blaring, and loud talking is tough. But not all networking experiences have to be like that, do they? Look for smaller and more sedate events, such as a talk at a library, with time afterward for snacks.

When you’re initiating an event yourself, create a quiet environment to foster the meeting. Instead of a bar at happy hour, you might meet up at a calm coworking space, an outdoor café, or a similar laid-back space.

Lean into your strong listening skills.

One talent that the average introvert often excels at is listening. Being a good listener can make you appealing to others. So, don’t feel like you have to carry the entire conversation. Reflecting on what they share will strengthen understanding and the sense of connection. The next time they see you, it’ll be as someone they know already, which can help take pressure off you.

If you need to improve your listening ability, here’s some good news: This is a skill you can build, one that can help grow your career long-term. So you’d benefit yourself twice as much by getting good at it. Since it’s so key for our lives, you’ll find many helpful tips online about better listening, like this article from the Harvard Business Review.

Set up more 1:1 get-togethers.

Introverts can quickly get overwhelmed when surrounded by a lot of people, especially when you don’t know them well. A large networking event may make it a challenge to build connections that help your career. Fortunately, you don’t have to be the life of the party. You don’t even have to meet every single person there.

Remember that the most significant benefit to big networking events is that you can set up follow-up conversations later on. If you go to an event and meet 2-3 people you can reach out to later for a one-to-one chat, you’ve accomplished something. Focus on those one-to-one chats because that’s where you’ll shine, and that’s also where you’ll be better able to connect anyway.

Warm up your connections ahead of time.

Cold calls, cold emails —these career activities are naturally tricky even for an extrovert because the other person involved doesn’t know you, so you’re connecting from square one. So, pass over square one and move to square two. Warm up those initial contacts by getting introductions from your existing networks, either in person or by email.

What makes this technique effective is that it immediately creates a shared experience—you and the other person have already connected at least once through your shared friend or coworker. And since you have that friend or coworker in common, you can talk about that shared connection to break the ice when you meet again.

Pick group activities you love.

It’s natural to talk about topics we enjoy and know a lot about. Introverts and shy people may find it easier to engage with new people if you’re in an environment where you’re doing something you like to do and are good at, alongside people who feel the same. A shared enjoyment of an activity creates grounds for building friendships.

So, think beyond straightforward networking meetups and look for other activities where you might meet people on a similar career path. Classes, volunteer events, and work-based interest groups can introduce you to new people. Activities like a corporate game night at the local baseball park can be fun, relaxed times to share an appreciation for something outside of work while building connections with new people.

Have an entrance and exit strategy.

Two aspects of meeting people can challenge an introvert: kicking off the conversation and ending it. There are no rules saying you can’t rehearse some ideas to help yourself. You can set yourself up for more success by planning how you’ll approach these two areas ahead of time.

For starting a conversation, come up with a few questions that invite further discussion—something that’s not too serious but that shows you’re interested in chatting. Questions like these are handy: “What parts of your role do you most love?” and “What interesting trends are you noticing in your field right now?” Curiosity is a good tool, too, so if the person mentions something that intrigues you, say something like, “Tell me more about that.” And prepare your own answers to questions like these so you can chat naturally about them.

To end a conversation at a networking event, keep in mind that you don’t have to speak to one person for the entire time. Allow yourself to take a break by letting the person know you’ve enjoyed what they shared, ask if you can connect one-to-one sometime to talk more, and get their contact info. This creates a natural way to end the conversation cordially without wearing out your introverted temperament.

The Takeaway

Building your network is vital to building your career, so you don’t want to overlook it or shy away from it. If you’re more naturally on the quiet side, a little shy, or more of an introvert than an extrovert, that’s okay. Just use the strategies we’ve outlined, get to know your own personal style of growing your connections, and lean into your strengths as you make connections in your own way and at your own pace.