I’m not going to lie: networking when you’re a shy person is hard.

Yet, in the current era, networking is crucial to helping you land work.

So how do you go about it?

When I was younger, my teachers regularly wrote on my report cards “does not mix well”, introvert” and “needs to come out of her shell” a lot. So I understand what it is to be the person that is shy and doesn’t want to bother anyone.

For shy people, these feelings of wanting to keep to oneself are made worse when people reject you. I get it!

One key that changed things for me however was when I realized that “closed mouths don’t get fed” and that if I wanted something, I needed to ask for it.

So if you’re intimidated by people, I understand the feeling. In this post, we’ll go over 7 tips to help you network online even if you’re shy.

7 tips for networking when you’re shy

People are more accessible than you think.

Realize that people are really just people. Yes, some seem intimidating because of all they’ve achieved, but they are still people and are more accessible than you think. Speak up, don’t let the fear of being rejected cheat you of a fulfilling profession.

Choose a platform to build your network on.

Networking online is now an emphasis because of COVID. I don’t think we are going to fully go back to the way it was before the pandemic. Thus embracing that networking online is the new normal will serve you well. This is why I love LinkedIn and Twitter. Choose one platform to do your networking on. You don’t have to be “everywhere” online to be effective at networking.

The LinkedIn search bar is your friend.

Use the search bar on either platform to look for people doing what you want to do. Want to break into science writing? Type in “science writer” and then navigate to “people” to find people with those titles. Once you locate a list of people who are in the professions you’d like to pursue, click through their profiles. Are they active on Linkedin i.e., posting and interacting on the platform, follow them or send them a connection request to start interacting with them.

Interact! That’s what you’re here for.

Once you’ve connected, don’t lurk. Interact with the people by commenting on their posts with insightful comments. Don’t just write cute phrases like, “I couldn’t agree more” or “you could not have said it better.” It doesn’t add value to the conversation. Instead, put some thought into the post and respond meaningfully.

Go deeper.

Beyond commenting on posts, take the conversation further. Send a quick note to the people you’ve been connecting with and thank them for their content. This is also a great time to ask permission to send 3-5 questions about their career to them. Some people will say yes and others will not respond. Focus on those who do respond. On my part, I mostly say yes to these requests and half the time, I will get on 15-minute Zoom calls to chat.

Be respectful of their time.

If someone agrees to answer questions about their career or get on a Zoom call with you, please be respectful of them and their time. Just because they are nice on social media doesn’t mean they owe you or anyone for that matter, their time.

Once they have answered your questions or spoken to you on Zoom, thank them for their time. It’s a small gesture that builds goodwill and could benefit you in the future.

Networking is a long game. Remember that.

During my post-doc, I attended a career event and that is where I learned about scientists who were making a living writing.

The panel consisted of 4 people – one who had leveraged his PhD and launched a successful novelist career, two people who ran their own agencies and another who had gone to write for a large healthcare system after her PhD.

I connected with them and even met with one of them in person.

I did not become a writer the following week. I did launch a freelance health writing business in the interim but it took around 3 years to land a full-time science writer role after I made those connections.

Nonetheless, I learned what I needed from those individuals to set myself on the path to becoming a professional writer.

Big lesson: don’t just view your connections as the doorway to your position inside of a particular company. Don’t get discouraged if after speaking to people, you still have not landed a role. These are not job interviews afterall. You are simply on an information-gathering mission.

That may happen – but more than that, use those connections to learn, so you can be rightly positioned for the role you seek.

So networking when you’re shy? Yes, it can be intimidating but these tips will put you on the path there.

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