Networking Tips for Introverts (And Everybody Else), with Tammy Gooler Loeb

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 168:

Networking Tips for Introverts (And Everybody Else), with Tammy Gooler Loeb

Airdate: December 5, 2018

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the publisher of Mac’s List, it’s an online community that connects talented professionals with meaningful work.

I believe everyone can find a job they love. But to do that, you need to learn the skills to build a successful career. From professional networking to personal branding, you’ve got to get good at job hunting.

This show helps you do this. Every week on Find Your Dream Job, I interview a different career expert. We discuss the tools and tactics you need to find the work you want.

This week, I’m talking to Tammy Gooler Loeb about networking tips for introverts (and everybody else).

Tammy Gooler Loeb is a career and executive coach and an expert in networking.

Tammy says good networking — for introverts and everybody else — starts by paying attention to mindset. In our conversation today, she encourages you to think about how you see and experience networking.

Too many job seekers, says Tammy, believe networking means attending big events and shaking hand after hand.

Instead, Tammy tells me in today’s interview, you should look at networking as research. It’s about collecting information for your job search. And there are many ways you can do this.

Tammy recommends you stick to interactions in which you’re most comfortable. So if you’re an introvert who doesn’t enjoy big crowds, find small events.

And remember, says Tammy, networking can happen anywhere, anytime: while shopping at the grocery store, walking your dog, or talking with others online.

Want to learn more? Listen in now at the Mac’s List studio as I interview Tammy Gooler Loeb.

Tammy Gooler Loeb is a career and executive coach. She is passionate about helping people find professional meaning and satisfaction.

Tammy is also a trainer, facilitator, and speaker. She focuses on job search strategies, workplace communication, and leadership development.

She joins us today from Newton, Massachusetts.

Tammy, thanks for being on the show.

Tammy Gooler Loeb:

Thanks for having me, Mac.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah. Well, it’s a pleasure and this is a topic, our subject this week on networking, we come back to a lot on Mac’s List and this podcast. We’re focusing particularly on networking for introverts (and everybody else).

I know in your work, and in our conversations, you made the point that mindset makes a huge difference among successful networkers. Tammy, tell us more about that. What do you mean by mindset?

Tammy Gooler Loeb:

Sure. When I say mindset, what I’m referring to is that a lot of people think that networking is a dirty word. Especially for people who tend toward introversion. They feel like, if they’re networking, they’re trying to sell someone something or that they’re trying to prove something about themselves to someone else. Or trying to ask somebody for a favor and they don’t feel entitled to it.

I think of networking very differently from that. The mindset that I feel is really important is to think about networking as if it’s research. You’re trying to get information. It’s not only networking for the sake of landing that next job or getting your foot in the door to a company that you would like to work for.

It really is truly a process of getting information, and using that information to inform your job search or inform whatever professional next steps you’re going to be taking. If you can have that mindset of it being information gathering you’re, I think, less likely to feel that… you know, when I say dirty, I mean people feel that they’re being insincere in some way.

It’s not about being insincere; it’s about getting the information, engaging in a genuine way, and in an authentic way with a variety of contacts and connections. Very likely the tables could be easily turned. It could be that somebody that you’re talking with could be knocking on your door in the next several weeks, months, or even years looking for information from you.

I think of networking… of the mindset, as both information gathering and a reciprocal process.

Mac Prichard:

I want to get into networking for introverts in particular but before we do that, Tammy, let’s talk more about this mindset. Why don’t people come to it naturally?

Tammy Gooler Loeb:

I think that a lot of people have been to these larger networking events where everybody’s wearing a name tag and there’s some kind of process where you might sit down with a group of people and everybody exchanges cards. It just doesn’t feel natural. I think that people have seen networking as, you know, a means to an end rather than that it really should be an ongoing process throughout your career.

For example, let’s say somebody has done some good networking, or as I would say, connecting with other professionals and other people. Once you land the job, you don’t stop networking. You don’t stop staying connected to people. You’ve got to maintain at least some of those connections.

Stay in touch with people because we live in a time when company loyalty isn’t as high as it used to be. People are moving jobs on a regular basis. You need to have your network of individuals, of professionals, of different people that you want to be connected to over time.

You hope that they’ll call upon you as well.

Mac Prichard:

The mindset you’re describing, I think, have you found that it’s common among all personality types? Not only introverts but also in extroverts as well?

Tammy Gooler Loeb:

Yeah, that’s a great question. I think it’s true. I think a lot of people, even people who are, let’s say, more extroverted, more outgoing, I do think that… it’s almost like this idea that when you’re networking, you’re asking people to pay attention to you. Like, “Hey, pay attention to me. Look how great I am.”

Really that’s not… I mean yes, you want people to see your talents and your skills and your strengths and you want them to be inclined to help you in some way to grow your career. However, I think that if you go into any kind of a networking type of situation, whether it’s an event or a one on one conversation, the most important thing you can do is really get it in your head that you’re really there to learn something, to get information.

I think that too often people think that, it’s almost like they think of networking as that they’re already going into the interview. They’re feeling like they’re on the spot and that they have to show up in a certain way. Sometimes the discomfort is, kind of, that fine line between being genuine and authentic in your interaction or trying to show up with some kind of persona that you may think you are or are not.

It makes people uncomfortable.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, I really like the point you’re making here, Tammy. The first one about expectations, I certainly saw this earlier in my career. Personally, I would go to informational interviews, meeting with people one on one and I didn’t quite understand how to run the meeting and what I could expect to get out of it.

I thought, “Well, I didn’t get a job offer, he didn’t tell me about an offer or an open job. Boy, that was not a good use of my time.” Of course, I was wrong. Networking is about building relationships and as you say, collecting information.

The other point I love that you’re making is about authenticity. We don’t have to put on a mask when we walk into a networking event. Whether we’re an introvert or an extrovert, do we?

Tammy Gooler Loeb:

No, definitely not. I think that the more you take the focus almost off of yourself in some ways and focus more on the other person or people that you’re encountering, the more you show that you’re interested in them and their career paths or their industry. They are going to be impressed with the type of questions you’re asking or the fact that you’re just naturally curious about them.

People more often than not do like to talk about themselves. They like it when people are interested in them. They like it when people want to talk to them about what’s important to them. It’s a great way to get the conversation started and it often does bring about some really handy information that you can use to further the conversation and also further your knowledge of a particular industry or profession.

By having that, you can then move forward with your networking and your investigation.

Mac Prichard:

Let’s talk about introverts and specifically what kind of challenges they face, introverts face, when networking and your advice about how to overcome them. Where would you like to start, Tammy?

Tammy Gooler Loeb:

Well, I think I would start with thinking about networking events. I think when people talk about networking, and especially introverts, maybe it’s a networking event, maybe it’s a conference where you have the opportunity to interact with a number of professionals whose interests or role are comparable to yours. It’s still a large event.

I find that not all, but many introverts, would prefer smaller group interactions. Even one on one interactions. One thing that’s true of many introverts, and I don’t want to globalize this to all introverts, because I think there’s sort of a continuum between introversion and extroversion. I think, for the most part, most introverts would agree with this, that they’re not big on small talk.

They don’t really like that shake your hand, say hello, and talk about the weather. I always recommend my clients, who are introverts, I always recommend that they reach out to people one on one. That they focus more on individualized kind of conversations.

If they happen to be going to a professional conference, we talk about additional strategies they can employ that would at least put them closer to their comfort zone. I think also, we live in a culture here in the US where everyone says, “Well, you should put yourself out there and make yourself known.” You know, “When you go to a big event, don’t be a wallflower.”

There’s a lot of shaming around what some introverts might feel more comfortable doing. The fact of the matter is, most introverts are actually very social people but they also need downtime, quiet time, and more individual connections with people.

My advice is to do things within your comfort zone but also make sure that you are making the kinds of connections and relationships that will really help you to grow and move yourself forward.

Mac Prichard:

I’m glad you’ve made those broader points about introversion. It’s a personality style. Introverts get energy in different ways but one style isn’t better than the other, it’s just different.

I do want to take a moment, we’re going to take a break, Tammy. When we come back, I want to dig into some practical tips for networking for introverts. Particularly the large conference. You touched on that, but if a listener is going to some regional or national event and there are going to be 500 to 1,000 people there, how can they get the most out of that?

Hold that thought. We’ll be back in just a moment.

If I say the word networking, you probably think of an event like a conference, a mixer, or a happy hour. But whether you’re an introvert or a glad-hander, networking happens online, too.

Social accounts like LinkedIn let you connect with colleagues, classmates, and the leaders in your field. And that makes it easy for people to find you.

You can also use your social channels and other online accounts as publishing platforms. Maybe you just pass along a news article. Or you repost a blog you wrote for your employer.

As you add professional connections and share your knowledge, you build relationships and employers will think of you when jobs open up.

Sounds simple right?

Well, of course, nothing worthwhile is ever easy. That’s why we created our three-part video course, How to Wow and Woo Employers Online.

In this free online class, I show you how to make the most of social media in your job search.

Get your copy today. Go to macslist.org/wow.

You’ll learn:

Why employers check you out online.

How to position yourself as an industry leader.

And what to do about those unfortunate college photos a long-forgotten classmate recently posted on Facebook.

Download the free three-part class now. Go to macslist.org/wow.

Now, let’s get back to the show!

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. This week we’re talking with Tammy Gooler Loeb. She’s a career and executive coach and an expert in networking.

Tammy, when we stopped before the break we were talking about what an introvert might do if she or he is getting ready to go to a big regional or national conference. How can they get the most out of an event like that? What are your practical tips?

Tammy Gooler Loeb:

That’s a great question. A couple of things: prepare ahead of time. If you have, for example, the opportunity to see a list of the people who will be attending the conference, you may want to identify a few individuals who you really would like to connect with or have a conversation with.

If possible, you could even email them ahead of time. Say, “I’m also going to be at this conference. Would love to grab a cup of coffee with you or at least have a chance to say hello. I hope we’ll have a chance to see each other.” In some cases, you may even actually make a regular appointment to meet up with somebody.

I think it’s helpful to plan ahead. That’s one way of planning ahead.

Another way to plan ahead is to think about some strategies that you might employ in different situations. For example, there’s this always some sort of dead time in-between sessions where people are hanging around in the hallways. Maybe they’re having small conversations. They haven’t walked into the actual room yet, let’s say, for a breakout session.

I think sometimes, you can maybe be the first person in the room for the breakout session. As people walk in, not that you’d be a greeter necessarily, but you might find an individual or two who walk in. Then you can say… to approach them and say, “Oh, what brought you to this session? What interested you about it?”

Have some opening lines, let’s say. Sincere lines, of course, but have some opening lines on how you might approach somebody who has walked into a session that you plan on going to. You might ask them, “Are you familiar with the speaker for this session?” Or, “What drew you to this particular session?” That’s one thing.

You may be wandering around the hallway outside the room. Maybe there are people just waiting to go in. You may both be standing, waiting to go in and you can start a conversation, but make it meaningful.

I think those are some good ways. I also think that as you meet people, maybe even make a lunch date with them. Maybe the conference is several days long and you can say, “I’m planning on having lunch tomorrow at such and such a spot. Let’s get together and talk some more.”

It does require putting yourself out there to some extent but I’d like to think that it’s in a planful and meaningful way. As opposed to just, you know, shaking hands and reading someone’s name tag to say hello to them.

Another great way, I think, to meet people who may be helpful is in the larger areas of the conference where there may be vendors and other people there who are showcasing their services or their products. There are lots of reasons why you might be interested in talking with some of those people.

Yes, they’re there to try to engage you and sell you something, but at the same time, you probably can get into a little bit of a deeper conversation with them about the industry or about particular functions within the industry that could be useful to you. They may be able to share some resources with you that would be helpful as well.

I think having a plan and engaging people one on one, those are important. The other thing that’s important is, for example, let’s say you walk into a big ballroom and there are lots of people sitting at tables. Find a table where there’s only one other person sitting there, they’re already alone, and join them for lunch.

Mac Prichard:

I love that idea. Nobody, I think all of us are a little bit uncomfortable sitting by ourselves and I think everybody feels a sense of relief when someone joins them and starts up a conversation, don’t they?

Tammy Gooler Loeb:

Yeah, I think so. I think the worst thing you can do is be the wallflower. Don’t gravitate towards those people in the corners; gravitate towards, it could be an individual at a table or if you’re in a, like, a stand-up cocktail party type situation, look for the openings.

There are some groups where people are standing in a more closed group, a circular group. Then there are those people who may be standing in more of a U shaped group. It’s a great opportunity. Just sort of step in, stand in that open space, and just say hello.

Most people are going to be very welcoming to that. I don’t think you have to think of anything in particular or particularly clever to say. You have to find the right kind of body language to step into, let’s say, a small group conversation.

Mac Prichard:

I like your suggestions too, about having a few conversation starters beforehand. Or ready at hand because it… having those questions, “Why did you come to this conference?” or, “How many years have you come?” or, “Have you traveled far?” It just, as you say, most people enjoy talking about themselves and you just sort of need to prime the pump.

Tammy Gooler Loeb:

Yeah. finding out, “What brought you here today?” or, “What are you hoping to get out of this conference?” Those kinds of things. You show an interest in the other person and then you learn something about them and there’s usually a natural follow-up question from there.

I think, again, what we were talking about originally, about networking being information gathering. Again, you’re being inquisitive and curious, more about the other person. It takes the focus off yourself and it can ease that general discomfort that some people have going to these kinds of conferences and large group forums.

Mac Prichard:

Well, Tammy, our show focuses on job hunting and practical advice. We’ve talked about the mindset that people should have when networking and some general advice for how to operate at a conference, particularly for introverts.

What other practical tips do you have, again for introverts, but everybody else to use networking to help with a specific job search? What are some of your best pieces of advice?

Tammy Gooler Loeb:

In a general way, I think that most people, when they think about networking as part of their job search, they first think that the primary people they need to connect with are in their industry or have some alignment with their functional role.

I suggest that they open up their network much wider than that.

Mac Prichard:

What does that look like?

Tammy Gooler Loeb:

Your next door neighbor.

Mac Prichard:

Okay.

Tammy Gooler Loeb:

Mhm. It could be your next door neighbor, it could be a cousin that lives halfway around the country. In terms of thinking about networking, cast a lot wider. Talk to people, not just because you want to talk to them because they have some knowledge about your industry or your interest. We all know those people out there who seem to know everybody. Talk to those people. Because a big part of networking is not just having that one conversation.

It’s about what we call a network, right? Talk to somebody because you want to talk to other people they may know or who they may recommend that you speak with.

I always suggest that people try not to leave or complete any networking conversation without having at least one or two other names of people to follow up with from that conversation. Think about who you know and who they might know. That gives you a much farther reach.

It’s fairly well documented that most people find their next role through some kind of relationships or networking. Often times it’s that third, fourth, or even fifth-degree connection where you actually find the job.

If you stick to just your inner circle or your first degree or closest, warmest connections, you’re limiting yourself seriously. It’s important to actually get those introductions from those people you know to people you don’t know.

By the time you’re introduced to the person you don’t know, you at least have a connector with another relationship between the two of you.

Mac Prichard:

I think that’s excellent advice for networking. Any particular tips you give to your clients who are introverts who are following that plan?

Tammy Gooler Loeb:

Well, we spend some time talking about it. Especially if there’s, you know, I think the mindset is a big one. If we can reframe the way they’re thinking about these interactions, it can move them forward.

For example, I had a client who was very resistant to doing any kind of relationship building or networking. She really was convinced that she was intruding on people by doing this. I suggested that she just start with one or two people that she felt comfortable with and ask them who they felt she should be talking to.

Also, sometimes what also is helpful is if there are people you’ve worked with in the past or even people you’re working with currently that you’ve had a really positive relationship with, ask them, “What am I like to work with? Tell me a little bit about me.”

I think sometimes people get inside their heads so much, and this is definitely true of introverts, that it’s helpful to get some feedback or input from somebody who has worked with them and has benefitted from working with them.

I think that helps to, kind of, unglue them from a certain mindset or perspective about what it might be to engage in a conversation with another person, especially about looking for that next position.

You’ve got to find a way to unglue yourself if you’re feeling stuck. Most people will readily admit that they’re feeling stuck. I think it’s important to address some of those objections and also to acknowledge that some of these things are uncomfortable. Let’s find the most comfortable way possible for you to engage in a few conversations.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, excellent advice, Tammy. Now, tell us, what’s next for you?

Tammy Gooler Loeb:

Well, Mac, I’m very excited because I just recently launched my own podcast.

Mac Prichard:

That’s terrific.

Tammy Gooler Loeb:

It’s called, “Work from the Inside Out”. It focuses on people and strategies for career transition. I’ll be talking with a number of people who have made significant career transitions or work transitions so that they could move from what was probably a less satisfying situation to a far more meaningful and fulfilling work situation.

I say “Work from the Inside Out,” because I think that most people who do make those transitions make those decisions from a more internal place. Some kind of intrinsic motivation or self-insight or self-knowledge and that usually spurs them to make a change.

Mac Prichard:

Well, I’m really looking forward to listening to your show. Congratulations on the launch.

Tammy Gooler Loeb:

Thank you.

Mac Prichard:

I know that’s exciting news. I know people can learn about you, Tammy, your company, and your new podcast by visiting your website at tammygoolerloeb.com.

Tammy, thanks for being on our program this week.

Tammy Gooler Loeb:

Thank you for having me, Mac. It’s been a pleasure.

Mac Prichard:

Likewise. Take care.

Tammy Gooler Loeb:

You too.

Mac Prichard:

I think the most important thing I took away from my conversation with Tammy was about mindset. As she pointed out, plenty of us, when we think about networking, imagine that function room at the Holiday Inn where people are passing out business cards like candy.

It’s a place that I don’t think anybody is going to be comfortable. If instead, as Tammy encourages us, we think about networking as building relationships and being of service to others and doing the research we need to do to get ahead in our career, it becomes much more comfortable and effective.

Much of the networking that she talked about happened in person but it also happens online. That’s why we have a course. It’s called, “How to Wow and Woo Employers Online.

You can get your copy today. It’s free. It’s at macslist.org/wow and I hope you’ll take a moment to download it.

In the meantime, thank you for listening to this episode of Find Your Dream Job.

Please join us next Wednesday. Our guest will be Bev Jones. She’s the host of the Jazzed about Work podcast.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

If the word “networking” brings to mind an event held in a hotel ballroom consisting of meeting new people and shaking hand after hand, it’s time to change your mindset. Large events and small talk are not fun for introverts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build and invest in a professional network! Learn how to engage with a variety of people in a genuine and sincere way that will reward your efforts and further your job search. Today’s guest on the Find Your Dream Job podcast, Tammy Gooler Loeb, says you need to think of networking as research and – this is key – look for the types of interactions that make you feel more comfortable.

About Our Guest:

Tammy Gooler Loeb is a career and executive coach who focuses on job search strategies, workplace communication, and leadership development. Tammy is passionate about helping people find professional meaning and satisfaction. Through personal coaching, she helps her clients clarify their professional goals and take a more focused approach to achieve success.

Resources in This Episode:

  • For helpful articles and information about Tammy’s career coaching services, visit her website at tammygoolerloeb.com.
  • Tammy’s new podcast, Work from the Inside Out,” focuses on people who have made significant transitions to a more meaningful and satisfying work situation.