Networking is one of those things that most people, and particularly introverted lawyers, frankly dread. That’s because we’ve been told countless times that the way to network is to go to stuff and meet new people. Or even worse, call up perfect strangers and try to get them to talk to us about their careers, and then (oh dear dog) ask them to give us their friends’ names to call, so we can do the same thing over again.
That’s great advice if you’re an extrovert, I imagine. But it’s lousy advice for introverts, if you ask me. In job searching, you want to play to your strengths as much as possible, because it gives you confidence. Constantly battling yourself to do something against your nature? A nice recipe for projecting uncertainty, insecurity, even desperation. Indeed, for us poor introverted schmucks, it’s like being asked to walk barefoot over broken glass while beaming radiantly.
I’m not saying that a certain amount of meeting and greeting isn’t important, even necessary in a job search. We live in a very extroverted business culture, and it’s difficult to succeed without some extroverted behavior. Plus, challenging yourself can be healthy, and can open up new vistas to you. That’s a good thing.
But if you’re an introverted lawyer type, going to conferences and bar association meetings that you have little true interest in likely is not going to score you that dream gig. You need to network in ways that are sustainable for introverts; putting yourself in a constant high-wire act of meeting total strangers is not sustainable. That’s why networking feels like a lost cause to most introverts, including attorneys.
Instead, it’s time to broaden your idea of what networking is. In a nutshell, it’s about building a life of good relations with people you know and like. Give up the idea that networking is only about meeting Extremely Important People who can give you a job. That’s freaking terrifying, and makes the stakes of meeting new people so high that you shut down, like as not, and don’t network at all.
A healthier way for introverts to look at networking is to see it as expanding your circle of friends, acquaintances and colleagues just a bit, and a way to balance your life and work a bit better. That doesn’t sound so intimidating, does it?
In my next post, I’ll cover three tools that introverts can actually use successfully over the long haul to build up lasting contacts and a rich life.
Jennifer Alvey is an introvert and recovering lawyer who has been known to act like an extravert and network! network! network! when all she really wanted was to curl up with a good book and a cuppa. She coaches lawyers and other professionals who feel stuck in their career and want a big change. How have your networking attempts gone? She’d love to hear about it. Drop Jennifer a line at jalvey AT jenniferalvey.com.