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Networking for introverts

Today’s post is the first in our regular Q-and-A feature. Please submit your management and career questions via e-mail to  Mary Ellen Slayter .

I’m 41 and have finally realized that what I love more than anything is managing people and helping them to realize their personal potential. I’ve done this for my current team, and frankly they’re in such good shape I am pretty bored. I want to find another management opportunity, but I have no idea how to network properly. I keep an eye on job postings, and it is clear that job postings will always be for managers who are experts in the particular work done by the team — never for someone who is just a good manager of people who are doing the work of the team. I’m an introvert pinching pennies because my husband is not doing the kind of work that brings in a paycheck, so I have a hard time paying for membership in a networking organization. What is the best, most focused way for me to apply my networking energies? I don’t have the emotional energy or finances for the shotgun approach. — Amy

You’re right to eschew the shotgun approach. It doesn’t work for anyone – introverts just wear out from it first.

Focused networking starts with knowing who you are and what you’re looking for – which you have clearly given much thought to already. Employers do hire management generalists like you, but they have to feel confident that your leadership skills transfer across the board. Does your resume demonstrate that now? If not, participation in a club or volunteer activity could help broaden your experience and help you make new connections. But don’t overextend yourself. It’s better to pick one activity and go deep than participate in a bunch of groups only superficially.

Now, knowing that, you’ve got to get yourself out there in places (physical and online) where you will meet the kind of people who need someone like you. Since you are open to changing fields, I suggest joining a general business group, such as a local Toastmasters chapter. (I know, I know, you said you were an introvert, but Toastmasters is a great way to improve your public speaking skills and meet people in a variety of industries. Plus it’s relatively cheap.) Another possibility: volunteer work for a cause you feel passionately about. If you make a regular commitment and advance into a leadership role, you’ll meet tons of like-minded people and round out your resume.

Also, don’t forget that you do have a network now — everyone you’ve ever worked with or for, your neighbors, former classmates, etc. Start reaching out to those people and let them know what kinds of opportunities you’re on the lookout for. If you’re not already on Facebook or LinkedIn, those two tools are an easy way to strengthen those connections — and they don’t require trying to dole out your business cards to strangers while picking “finger foods” off of a tiny paper plate.

Image credit, iStock