This article is part of the Coaching Collective series, featuring tips and expertise from Flatiron School Career Coaches. Every graduate at Flatiron School is eligible to receive up to 180 days of 1:1 career coaching with one of our professional coaches. This series is a glimpse of the expertise you can access during career coaching at Flatiron School.
When transitioning to a new tech career, one of the biggest gifts you can give yourself is networking with people who are already in a thriving tech career.
Networking, a word that can send chills down some people’s spines, is really just connecting – authentically building and deepening relationships with others who have similar passions and interests. Networking enables you to learn what someone in your desired role actually does everyday, helps you tap into the “hidden” job market (the estimated 70-80% percent of jobs that are never publicized), and offers professionals an opportunity to give back through sharing their own stories and even potentially filling open roles on their tech teams.
If you think that being introverted and good at networking run counter to one another, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. While introverts regularly get pegged as “shy,” their ability to draw energy from their inner world, reflect and listen, and curate interactions, amongst other strengths, can actually give them the competitive edge when it comes to navigating new connections. This BBC clip on the quiet power of introversion is a must-watch on the often unrecognized gifts introverts bring to the world.
Let’s explore some of introverts’ unique strengths when it comes to networking.
Strength #1: Introverts are reflective and energized by their inner world
Many people think the first place to go when networking is outward toward others, but it’s actually inward.
By going inward, I mean actively uncovering your own values, skills, and passions in tech and then using this self knowledge to find like-minded technologists at organizations in line with your vision. Since introverts are energized by spending time alone, developing a clear perspective for what they want to do before they take action, you can use this reflective time to research people thoughtfully, prepare insightful questions to ask, and tailor your interactions to each individual.
Let’s say you’re excited about advancing technology to improve sustainability and you’re passionate about being at a socially responsible company. Find organizations that align with those values, and then people who work there with whom you want to connect, and craft a meaningful outreach to set up informational interviews with their developers or data scientists.
Strength #2: Introverts are great listeners
When networking while transitioning into tech, you’re really trying to learn — to encourage others established in the field to share more about their work, their experiences, and advice. When you network well, you typically listen more than you talk, especially at first. This is where introverts shine – they tend to be great listeners and are skilled at naturally deepening conversations and asking smart questions based on what they’re hearing.
Since you “hear” so much as an introvert, let those you’re networking with know what you’ve taken away from your conversation – in a well-written thank you note. Introverts tend to prefer communicating in writing, and a strong follow-up note summarizing your takeaways and gratitude will go far to help you solidify relationships and help others know how they were helpful to you.
You can also use what you’ve learned to share more in writing: via LinkedIn posts and groups, on your blog, on Twitter or in tech-focused Slack groups.
Strength #3: Introverts thrive in meaningful interactions, in small groups, and one-to-one
If you still feel hesitant about setting up informational interviews, start by asking your inner network of close friends and/or family if they know anyone in tech you can talk to. Introverts often find this a more comfortable starting point versus large-scale networking events.
But you can also seek out smaller group gatherings around a purpose (e.g. a Meetup on a tech topic that really engages you, programs through Women who Code or Diversify Tech), meaningful volunteer opportunities (e.g. Code for America, Catchafire, Omdena, Solve for Good), or jumping in on a short-term project like Hackathons to grow your network. Contributing to Open Source projects can also be a great way to connect with an organization by quietly but meaningfully contributing to their work.
By joining a Meetup, you’ll often get to hear from a speaker and engage with other participants. You can even write a speaker after an event to thank them and plant the seeds for staying in touch.
By engaging in a volunteer opportunity, you will likely have a chance to work with full time staff and/or other volunteers – creating natural connection points around the work you’re doing together and giving you a chance to build a relationship over time – all while doing good.
Hackathons – a time-bound event where people come together to work on a specific project – are another way to meaningfully network for introverts, especially around causes or topics that speak to you. It’s a chance to connect with peers, more experienced talent, and sometimes even employers sponsoring or judging the project.
Overall, remember that you can leverage your natural strengths as an introvert to build a meaningful networking strategy. If you graduate from a Flatiron School bootcamp, you’ll work with a career coach for up to 180 days to personalize your networking strategy and put your plan into action.
That might mean working with your coach to leverage your strengths to overcome perceived barriers, create achievable goals, and celebrate successes — in networking and beyond — with someone as invested in your future in tech as you are.