Building Relationships as an Introvert
“Networking is not working”– Derek Coburn, online entrepreneur
Building relationships is truly the key and the core of everything in our lives. This proves true when it comes to making decisions, influencing others, and having the support of others and resources to do what you want to do.
But what if you’re an introvert? What if you’re one of those people who gains energy by spending time with themselves rather than with groups? What if you prefer to sit back and think about things before you make decisions, and prefer not to speak unless you really have something dynamite to say?
Western culture, particularly in the US, favors extroverts. We have the tendency to believe that more is better, especially when it comes to friends and social interactions, and heaven help you if you leave a party or event early because you can’t take a lot of social interaction with a lot of “schmoozing” and “small talk.” If you’re an introvert, those kinds of things tend to drain you, right?
But when you’re in the process of becoming an actuary, things like networking are pretty much necessary. You want to have those informational conversations that gain you that certain edge with the people who are already in the profession. And being able to strike up conversations with recruiters at events really will help you on your way.
So, how to go about this when you’re a bit more reserved, and less inclined to speak up or offer a point of view right away on a topic?
Destination of this Journey
So, today’s destination involves two things:
1) Being able to identify three techniques to building relationships as an introverted person.
2) Being able to apply one of these three techniques at the next career fair or job-related event.
Now, about the quote from Derek Coburn. Derek’s got it right on the nose. Networking, as most people know it, doesn’t really seem to work. Sure you get a bunch of business cards, you exchange resumes and you meet as many people as you can in a small period of time. And a lot of the time, this also incorporates a good deal of “schmoozing,” aka “greasing the wheels of success.” While that might be the accepted model, just how well does it work? Not too well if you’re not up for the inanities of small talk that go on at career events, no matter the profession. Instead, you might be the type that cherishes actual relationships being built on trust and mutual respect, instead of “you show me your resume and I’ll show you mine, then we’ll talk about the weather, then go home and forget we ever met.”
How do you build relationships with that model? You don’t.
But an even more important question is: how do you start relationships if you’re an introvert, especially if you choose to be an actuary?
The quick answer is: by being your authentic self.
Introversion vs Extroversion
So, you might be wondering just what the difference is between an introvert and an extrovert.
Extroverts are, to put it simply, people who tend to get their energy from being around people. Introverts prefer regaining their center, their sense of self by spending time by themselves. Neither is better than the other, they just relate to others differently. But this explanation of which is which tends to be necessary because there tends to be a lot of judgment against the introverted crowd—a lot of the time due to a lack of understanding and misinformation.
Also, just because someone’s an introvert, that doesn’t mean they don’t like people. It means that at the end of the day, they simply prefer to recharge and collect themselves by themselves.
To elaborate further: introverts have to expend a lot of psychic energy being around a lot of people at once, but if they’re having a one-on-one, in-depth conversation with someone that they have a lot in common with, the energy expended might not be as great. They’re content having a party of one or two rather than a party of 12 or 20.
Now that we have these definitions and understandings established, let’s move on to how you can build relationships as an actuary if you’re introverted.
Building Relationships as an Introvert
There are three key ways you can build relationships as an introvert while on your actuarial journey.
1) Be Your Authentic Self.
Really, this can’t be stressed enough. If you try to be someone you’re not, you know it’s going to not feel right, and people will know that you’re putting on an act just to “fit in.” A relationship is a long-term activity, and an investment over time—so why waste energy trying to be someone you’re not. The people with whom you form your best relationships will truly respect you for your willingness to be the real you.
Also, if you’re the sort to think quietly and carefully about something and then drop spot-on “bombshells” that make a positive impact on the discussion at hand, you will likely be seen as an asset; you’ll be the someone who’s very thoughtful, thorough and precise with their words—and yes, you can easily make this part of how you stand out as an actuary.
2) Come To Career Events Prepared And Do Your Research.
If you’re the type to carefully process the information in front of you and think about something before acting or speaking, then do that before you go to an event. If you’re going to a conference or other similar event, get to know the speakers, employers or employees that will be there.
You’ll also want to do research on the company, even the role you might be interested in, perhaps the type of industry, or even some hot topics—and have your questions prepared in advance so you know precisely what to ask, instead of feeling so on-the-spot.
Don’t be afraid to make your questions tough ones—questions that will challenge others. This will show you’ve done the research and are knowledgeable about that area, though you might not have worked in that field a day in your life.
You might even come up with a benchmark question. What this is, is a question that gets to the core of what’s important to you when you’re looking for a place to work. Make the question topic something that’s important to you—let it help you make the decision that’s right for you when it comes to applying for jobs, or even the path you want to go down later on in life.
3) Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up.
While it’s important for all actuarial journeyers to do this, if you’re an introvert, this one technique can be something you might actually excel at. Because the extrovert types are often the sort to bounce around from person to person because they think it’s important to do so, you, as an introvert, might have the social advantage. Why?
Your natural tendency to hang back and absorb everything and remember those key people that made an impact on you can gain you an edge in those follow-up emails you send. About half of the folks at that event you go to will just send a perfunctory email saying “Thanks for talking about this, I enjoyed the topic—it was really useful.” You, on the other hand, might be the sort to add something that is far more specific and valuable. This will stick in the minds of your email recipients, and you’ll make that lasting impression that’s so important.
You’ve Reached Your Destination
So, let’s recap!
By this point you should be able to identify the three major ways you can build relationships as an introverted person:
- Be Authentic.
- Come to Events Prepared.
- Follow-up, Follow-up, Follow-up!
And you should be able to implement one of these three relationship-building methods at the next career event you attend.
Many folks extol the virtues of being extroverted, but as an introvert, you might hold more social cards than you think. Because you’re likely not the type to bounce around trying to talk to everyone, then remembering hardly anyone, you can thoughtfully focus on discussions with your grade-A research, plus hone in on the key relationships you wish to build by sending those follow-up emails with that little extra value-add topic that will make you stand out.
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Let us know in the comments below – Which one of these principles do you think would be the best for you to focus on for the next month?