Q. I've read so much about how to network and why it is important. I totally agree, but all the articles seem to assume that everyone is an extrovert. I mean, I love people and feel very comfortable in my job as assistant manager of a casual corporate restaurant, but I'm definitely not an extrovert. Got any advice on networking for me?
Not a Type A
A. First, I'm glad that you believe in networking. It is essential that you continuously do it even when (especially when) you are content at work. It is kind of like insurance. When you don't need it, it seems like a waste, but when you need it, you need it bad. If you've ever had a medical problem without insurance, you know what I mean.
Second, networking isn't like cold calling strangers. It isn't networking if you just call someone you barely know and ask for help in getting a job. That's called being desperate. True networking takes time and a certain amount of conscious effort, but it can be quite painless.
My advice is to start with people you know, even a little bit. People can't help you if they don't know you. I'm talking about the people you know casually; The banker who you got a loan from, vendors who you deal with (excellent source of contacts!), people in your social or interest groups or organizations that you belong to. Make a point of spending some time with them. Invite the ones you especially like for lunch or breakfast or coffee or whatever feels right. Chances are you'll have a great time and you'll start your networking.
One word of caution - Do not talk about needing help with a job. Talk about interests, hobbies, backgrounds, kids, jobs, but this is not the time to probe for job leads. All good things take time; like learning to play guitar or fly.
If you're not quite ready for the above, then just ask someone you do feel comfortable with that you're interested in meeting other people. Get this person to ask a third person to lunch, drinks, coffee, breakfast, etc. with you. This way you'll get a chance to expand your circle of friends and contacts without any pressure at all.