Connections matter. Whether you’re looking for a new job, trying to land a new client, or applying to grad school, your professional network can play a massive role in the trajectory of your career. And people know it. In fact, if you’re reading this, I doubt this is news to you. But while the importance of professional connections is well understood, not as many people know how to expand their network. Not comfortably anyways. Especially when networking as an introvert.
It’s common for people to network at conferences, trade shows, and other industry events. Or rather, it’s common for people to network in extrovert-friendly environments. But you don’t have to be an extrovert to connect with people. Further, networking as an introvert doesn’t have to mean placing oneself in an uncomfortable social setting and “pushing through.” Here are three tips for networking as an introvert that you can start using from the comfort of your home (and without speaking at all).
1. Slide into the DMs (professionally—don’t be weird)
With social media, introverts don’t always have to track down email addresses or go to events to connect with people. If you can find someone’s social media profiles, you can get in touch more informally via their direct messages. Of course, whether you get a reply will largely depend on what you write (so be respectful, and don’t just say, “Hey”). But you can still shoot your professional shot with almost anyone.
Also, don’t limit yourself to Instagram. If someone has a private profile on Instagram or another casual social media platform, try finding them on LinkedIn. If they’re there, include a personal note when requesting to connect on the platform. Or even before (InMail may be worth a try, depending on the circumstance). If they’re not there, it might be time to track down their email).
2. Shoot to the top of the email inbox (but not in a spammy way)
There are multiple ways to find someone’s professional email address (e.g. scouring their company’s website or paying someone on Fiverr to track it down for you). Once you have it, however, the important thing is to use it. I know, it’s obvious. But you’d be surprised how many people will acquire an email address and then, thanks to nerves or otherwise, never use it.
Send out a clean, professional email that makes it clear why you’re reaching out. And remember to find a way to add value to them too (if this is to become a professional relationship, it should be a two-way street). Then wait. If you don’t hear back within a couple weeks, follow-up. And if you still don’t hear back, move on. For now.
As with the DMs, there’s no guarantee you’ll get a reply. Yet you’re only guaranteed no response if there’s nothing to respond to. After all, it’s tough to connect with people if you never reach out to anyone. Yeah, hitting send from your couch instead of saying, “Hi,” at a conference can still be scary. But there’s no getting around it. When networking as an introvert, you have to be bold.
3. Send a physical letter (yes, you’ll need a stamp)
Whether you use it to establish contact or as the follow-up after a virtual exchange, sending a physical letter is an easy way to stand out to a potential connection. Partly because letters can be so time consuming and cumbersome to send out.
Between gathering paper, an envelope, and a stamp, grabbing a pen that’s neither ink deprived nor dripping ink, writing the letter by hand, and addressing the envelope by hand (presuming you don’t have a label printer, but even then…) letters can take a while to craft. Twice as long if you make a spelling error (pens don’t have a backspace button). Which means you’ve put more time and effort in—not to mention money, however little it may have been, for the postage—than most will.
This effort rarely goes unappreciated. It’s even more rare that it goes unnoticed. Because while people receive constant DMs and endless emails, it’s not every day you receive a personal letter in the mail. As such, while there’s still no guarantee, you may receive a response to a letter (though perhaps not as a letter) more often than you receive a reply to a DM or a cold email. Even if you simply sent a thank you note.
When networking as an introvert, or even as an extrovert, this tip in particular can be extremely useful. Because your professional network shouldn’t just be wide. It should be deep. Having a lot of connection doesn’t do you much good if the quality of those relationships is low.
Connections matter. But a connection matters more the more they value you and you value them. A physical letter is a demonstration of how much you genuinely value someone. And when this value is so demonstrated, it’s likely to be reciprocated.