Networking for Introverts
I love being a public relations student, but some of the things that go along with it can be challenging if you are an introvert like myself. Networking is a big one. When I began studying PR halfway through my college career, I had to hit the ground running when it came to networking, despite the fact that I had no experience with it. It was an intimidating thing to get thrown into, but I have learned quite a few tips that have helped me gain a lot of connections and catch up with my more experienced and outgoing peers.
The first thing I learned about networking was that you can ease into it by connecting with people over social media or email. I had no idea what an impact a simple email has! One habit I have gotten into and encourage everyone to do is to send a follow-up email to anyone you meet in a professional setting who you want to connect with again in the future. This includes guest speakers, interviewers, people you meet at job fairs and other events, or even alumni you see on Instagram takeovers (just be sure to keep your DMs professional and not too casual!). Sending a simple thank-you note with a personal connection goes a long way. I have gotten many positive responses from professionals who love to hear your input and are happy to help you develop your career path.
Networking through social media can go a long way, but an in-person connection is even stronger and more memorable, so it’s important to work your way up to that. I prefer starting with smaller events such as school-specific job fairs (Klein hosts them frequently) or a more intimate setting such as a PRSSA meeting. These come with less pressure because you aren’t expected or obligated to dive deep into a conversation. Simply introducing yourself, exchanging business cards, or talking briefly with a guest speaker, for example, can be good practice while still making a connection. You can also focus the conversation on them by asking them about their company and opportunities, then shift the subject to yourself and what you have to offer when you feel comfortable enough to do so.
Finally, attending a larger networking event can be the most intimidating, but can also lead to important and lasting relationships in the industry. I learned from Jennifer Robinson that bringing a buddy to your first event is acceptable, and even more efficient! Not only can your friend act as a networking wingman by introducing you to new people, but you can both walk away with twice the connections. I find that preparing before the event not only helps ease nerves but also ensures the networking goes more smoothly. Think of questions beforehand to avoid awkward or doubtful moments. Unique, open-ended questions are best because they spark conversation, curiosity, and help you stand out among the many other networkers. Try to meet with as many people as you can, or make a goal for yourself. The best way to improve at networking is to practice. And don’t forget to follow up!
This blog post was written by Peyton Pflug, Secretary.