PhD Networking Strategy for Introverts
You probably heard by now that networking is an intricate part of any successful career. You probably also heard that a strong PhD networking strategy should be an important component of your action plan if you’re thinking about leaving academia.
But what if you intensely dislike networking? What if you feel awkward and out of place at networking events? What if you’re allergic to name-tags and vigorous handshakes? What if the elevator pitch you learned by heart leaves a bitter taste in your mouth?
As an academic you might consider yourself somewhat of an introvert. Like many of your peers, you might consider libraries and labs your true home, and you might prefer staying home to watch the rain fall than running around badly lit conference spaces with a bunch of strangers. In other words, after years of phd-ing you might not feel as comfortable networking as you did before you entered graduate school. It’s normal. Work cultures have an important impact on how we behave, and the time you have spent focusing on your PhD might have kept you out of the social loop. So how do you break the ice to get back into the game?
Whether you consider yourself a true introvert or not, there are many ways for you to network without having to pretend to be somebody you’re not.
Here are is a PhD networking strategy to help you break out of your shell without putting yourself at odds with your true nature:
- Take Over Social Media
If your “me time” is truly important to you, social media is a great way to put yourself out there, highlight your skills and strengths without having to open your mouth.
LinkedIN, Twitter, and Facebook offer endless opportunities for you to participate in discussions, explore other industries, and connect with professionals. You like writing? Why not publish your own content on LinkedIN or Medium? You’ll be amazed by the number of people you can reach compared to the tens of people who will ever read your research.
- Choose quality over quantity.
Introverts prefer having one-on-one meetings over interacting with large groups of people. They also prefer deep and meaningful interactions to superficial chit-chat. Learn to embrace this facet of your personality.
You don’t have to throw yourself in the middle of a packed room or speak in front of huge crowds to solidify your position as a person worthy of being hired. Continue to build meaningful relationships with people who matter the most to you. In this world where numbers of followers and “likes” are often used to measure someone’s relevance, it is easy to forget the value of nurturing relationships based in authenticity and honesty. Don’t be afraid to set up informal conversations, coffee dates, and social activities to engage on a deeper level with the people you meet, this is what you’re good at! You’ll end up making a stronger impact on others than any run-of-the-mill social butterfly!
- Envision networking as a strategy
Even if you consider yourself as a true introvert, you will have to “fake it till you make it” at some point if you want to successfully change careers. It’s unavoidable. Sooner or later, you will have to find yourself in the middle of a crowd of strangers. How do you deal with that?
One way to avoid feeling too nervous and intimidated by these types of social gatherings is to have a plan and be prepared. Before you attend these types of events, come up with a plan. Who would you like to chat with? Are there a few conversation starters you could prepare to break the ice with that person? It’s always great to have a list of tasks when navigating an overcrowded room. Having goals and being prepared are great strategies to boost confidence and divert your attention away from nerves that might keep you standing in a room full of strangers with nothing to say.
Finally, keep in mind that networking can be daunting for anybody, not just introverts. The people that might seem the most at ease in social environment to you have very likely been in your position before. It’s all a question of habit. So, start now. Start implementing this PhD networking strategy and break out of the isolation that often comes with being an academic. Your future depends on it!