One of the most disheartening things for an introverted job seeker to hear is that networking is by far the most effective means of finding new employment. Networking conjures images of energetic engagement in small talk or worse yet, meaningful conversation with total strangers! It might not be so bad if the introvert could just position themselves in a designated spot and gregarious people could walk over one at a time and begin the dialogue. But, of course, insult has to be added to injury, because it is often necessary for the introvert to actually commence outreach to others.
One of the great paradoxes of our time is that despite all of our technologically remote connectivity, valuable face to face relationships are more important than ever in career development. Looking for work by just visiting online job boards and social media sites isn't good enough. You still have to know how to mix it up with real people in order to get ahead.
Introverts are, well, reserved. They can be much better at avoiding networking events than they are at attending them, and never mind actually turning them into productive job seeking sessions. I should know. I'm by nature an introvert and have been spending a lifetime learning how to not let it's potentially negative side inhibit me professionally. But the good news is that introverts can learn to actually turn their inwardly focused attributes into networking strengths.
Let's begin by taking a look at some common traits introverts typically display that can come in handy with networking. Here's one. Introverts really value close relationships and a few deep ones are better than lots of superficial ones. They do this by caring for the welfare and happiness of others. Time is spent being good listeners and asking probing questions to make sure they clearly understand the perspectives of others. Another one is that people with introverted tendencies usually prefer structured and goal-driven contact with others, particularly in a work related context, which job hunting is. So planning the outreach such that it is designed to cover specific topics, answer targeted questions, and make contact with a pre-determined number of people are measurable ways of satisfying that a purpose is being achieved with their networking effort.
Getting back to introverts having a few close connections. Take one of them along to a networking event. Have them be your moral support, your sounding board, and your feedback loop, so that you can get through this and maybe even grow as a result. Finally put your research skills to use. Introverts are good at digging for data online and in print. Study up on the people you want to know better and share with them tidbits of knowledge, leaving the impression that you care about your new contacts and what they do.
Whether one is extroverted or introverted it's good to push yourself out of your comfort zone on occasion. By doing so we learn and grow. Being adaptable is an important survival skill for the 21st century. And this skill can't be strengthened by hiding in a shell. Introverts can and do adapt to challenging situations just like everyone else. Finding that zone, which allows you to build purposeful relationships can be some of the most rewarding, albeit not the easiest, time spent during your job search.