A Q&A post with Purdue University Alum & Industrial Engineer, Antonia Loh
If you’ve been job searching for a while, I’m sure you’ve heard about the importance of networking. Not only is this strategy a key to job searching, it’s a great life-long practice. For some, networking is easy. Others want to run for the hills when I recommend networking as a job search strategy.
People who identify as introverted and reserved can often feel more intimidated to network than those who identify as extroverted and outgoing. 16Personalities, a popular platform for personality testing, says introvert’s “reserved, more solitary nature presents challenges, as many societies favor Extraverts and their bolder approach”.
I think there is a big myth floating around that you have to be extroverted to find success at networking. This could not be further from the truth! As an extrovert, I cannot speak into what it’s like to network as an introvert. This is why I interviewed my friend, Antonia Loh, who is a self-proclaimed introvert and recent graduate of Purdue University. Antonia found success using networking methods during her job search, and just started her first full-time job at Northrop Grumman as an Industrial Engineer. Outside of work, you can probably find her sipping bubble tea and exploring her new home in SoCal. If you feel intimidated by the idea of networking, I highly recommend reading Antonia’s tips below!
As an introvert, what were the biggest fears you faced before you had your first networking call/conversation?
The biggest fear I have with networking is being put on the spot. This isn’t to say that introverts are bad at thinking on their feet; it’s more about the energy that it drains from an introvert when networking. Unlike extroverts who are able gain energy from networking and public speaking type events, introverts need that alone time to recharge their batteries. I have found myself to be the more quiet one in a group setting because I take time to process things and formulate a meaningful response which takes a lot of energy to process in real time while staying relevant with the conversation. As an introvert it’s really hard to stand out in a group setting with new people and maintain confidence when you feel out of control.
What would you recommend introverts do to prepare for a networking conversation? Is there anything that helped you arrive to a healthy, confident place before having that phone call?
Research and lots of practice! I found comfort in at least having a good background in relevant topics so that I can keep the conversation flowing. I sometimes think ahead and assume different conversation topics that may come up and take notes to feel more familiar with what’s to come. Familiarity helps me with the fear of being put on the spot. Staying up to date on current events also doesn’t hurt as it may be good topics to bring up. I also found it helpful to get affirmation which builds my confidence. Seek out trusted friends/family or coworkers who you know will give you good feedback and advice. Those who aren’t afraid to give you constructive criticism are the best! I know as an ISFJ I’m always looking for ways on how to improve. It’s also important to learn how to adapt to new things quickly. No matter how much preparation or research is done, things may not always go as planned so it’s to be built on your adaptability skills. Another big thing is to practice your elevator pitch! This is your first impression and it’s also a good ice breaker that you are able to practice before so you feel comfortable as you network and allows you to gain confidence in those crucial initial moments of the networking conversation.
A common struggle introverts might face is assuming they can’t “woo” the person they’re talking to. Whether it’s an interview, phone call, or career fair. What advice do you have about how to impress a recruiter with an introspective personality?
Personally I feel most confident in letting my work speak for itself. I try to share my experiences as much as possible. I have also found that I am able to connect with someone better and break down those barriers when you first meet someone by finding a common interest that’ll help the conversation flow more naturally and put both parties at ease. Try to establish a personal connection with the person you’re talking to. Again, start with a solid elevator pitch to break the ice and gain confidence. As an introvert, we are able to gain momentum when we start developing a more personal connection beyond just small talk, so when networking I try to dig deeper to build a stronger connection. Every minute is valuable so skip the small talk and dive right in, this will increase the chances that the person you’re talking to will remember you.
What aspects about being more introverted than extroverted helped you navigate your job search?
Introverts really take time to process before they speak so every contribution is usually thought out and hopefully valuable to the conversation. Introverts often pick up more details in our surroundings which adds to the information that we’re collecting while we’re talking to people which means even more to process which will take more time. We tend to analyze things a lot further than needed sometimes as we try to make sense of everything around us and what’s happening in front of us. Extroverts tend to think out loud and I think that’s a big difference. A lot of people don’t understand how introverts process their thoughts because they keep it all to themselves but I think it leads to some valuable contributions. Focus on quality not quantity. It may seem like networking is all about getting as many contacts as possible but for an introvert you can maximize your energy with just talking to a few people.
Do you have any tips on how to follow-up after an interview or networking call that might be unique to someone more introverted?
Sending an email or writing a letter! I feel like I am better at expressing my thoughts when I write them down. Introversion and extroversion really refers to how people get their energy and for introverts, networking can really drain energy while for extroverts networking is how they gain energy. It’s really important for introverts to find time after these types of interaction events to give themselves time to rest. This will help reground and recharge which will allow for reflection on the conversation.
Did you have any go-to questions that you found helpful during interviews/networking calls?
Make it feel like a two way conversation instead of feeling like you’re being put on the spotlight. Questions I like to ask pertain to what I can expect from the position and what they expect from me. This way I don’t make any assumptions and I feel more comfortable and confident about the role I’m interviewing for. “What are some expectations from members on this team?” I also like to learn more about the other person so it feels less like a one sided interview but a conversation and puts them at ease too. So questions like “What does your typical day look like?” “What draws you to this company?” And to finish off the interview so it doesn’t feel awkward, I like to ask questions like “What can I do to prepare myself for this position?” or “What are the next steps in the interview/hiring process?”
What did networking teach you? Would you recommend networking to others? Why?
The more you do it the more comfortable you’ll get with it. You’ll start to see that it’s actually quite rewarding. Networking is very valuable. The more I get into the professional world, the more I learned that it’s more about who you know rather than what you know. There’s also different types of networking. You can network with people in a prospective company. Or you can network with people within your company. Networking can also happen among your friends and family. It can also be very casual or very formal but it’s important to meet different types of people and expand your personal network because you never know who you might talk to. I’ve moved to multiple different cities and states in the last 20 years and it’s crazy how small the world feels when you start to meet new people who you actually have mutual connections with. You never know who you’re going to meet so network as much as you can!
Any other thoughts/tips/advice for fellow introverts?
Really understanding my introversion and taking pride in it has helped me come a long way both personally and professionally. Once I started seeing my introverted qualities as more assets than weaknesses, I was able to use those to my advantage and develop myself. Everyone is different and it’s all about learning and growing yourself. Starting with these different personality tests like Myers Briggs really helped me understand myself better and allowed me to understand why I do things the way I do and gain confidence in my decisions. I suggest these personality tests as a starting place and then really reflecting on how this can help you on your journey both personally and professionally.
LinkedIn is also a great resource for introverts to network. You are able to see the information about the person and really do some research before reaching out to them which breaks down the barrier of being put on the spot. Don’t be afraid to reach out to strangers, although I did find it easier to connect with people when you had something in common like a school, company, or mutual connections.