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NetWORK: ‘doing’ rather than ‘talking’

This is Part I in the five-part Quiet but Mighty blog series exploring ways introverts can remain true to themselves and still experience a satisfying professional life.

May I be frank? I hate the word “networking.”

Especially as an introvert, and especially as someone who is easily frustrated by the formalities of corporate America. Not to mention, I’m flat-out bad at what most people consider “networking.”

There are a lot of great tips from career counselors you should employ. But have you ever noticed that career advice is often geared toward the extroverted population – networking advice in particular? So, this post (and this entire series) is designed to serve as an alternative voice for those quiet, task-oriented worker bees thirsting for customized and workable career-building ideas. As we go through the week, I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments section.

I’ll begin with myself as an example. Networking makes me uncomfortable. However, “netWORKing” is 100% the reason why life is good and I’m sitting in a full-time job with a well-respected Indiana organization. Let me explain.

I completed eight internships while in college and in the months immediately following graduation. This gave me the opportunity to work with eight different mentors, experience eight unique office environments and interact with countless other employees, which helped me build a strong (albeit small) network. I completed so many projects and picked up different skill sets that prepared me for the workforce.

Internships also directly led me to full-time employment.

At one of my first internships, I hit the ground running on Day 1. I worked quietly, tackled project after project and earned my mentor’s trust and praise. Thanks to a recommendation from her, I was offered a great internship after graduation. I again worked diligently, and my mentor recommended me for an internship at another organization, reporting to one of his former interns. After working hard for a couple months at my last internship with Indiana INTERNnet, the Indiana Chamber hired me full time. That is how I “netWORKed” into full-time employment.

When I think about networking in the common context, I picture myself in a hot, scratchy business suit holding 10 copies of my résumé under the nose of an employer who doesn’t know a single thing about the real me. That’s because the real me (or the real you) doesn’t always shine on paper or in a five-minute conversation.

Don’t misunderstand – I hear the success stories that result from traditional networking. I don’t want to delegitimize career fairs or networking events because those are fantastic opportunities if you thrive in that environment. But if you’re anything like me – and statistics show that about half of you are – you weren’t designed to be a smooth talker, so most networking advice can’t serve you well.

If you’re a worker bee, give yourself permission to stop talking (to an extent) and just get to work. And don’t feel guilty about it, because if you add value some place, people will notice.

Bottom line: pave a career path in a way that works for you and achieves the results you desire.

Because I’m a country music fan, I’ll leave you with an incredibly applicable set of lyrics from the song “Shut Up and Kiss Me”… if you’re able to mentally warp the words into a career context.

“There’s something ‘bout the silent type / Attracting me to you / All business, baby, none of the hype / That no talker can live up to.”

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