Most networking today is dominated by extrovert-friendly interactions in large groups. What can an introverted job seeker do to break the ice and make quality connections in these stressful situations?

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Of all the puzzling memes and trending topics on social media, I’ve been a bit baffled by the recent online interest in the way “introverts” function in today’s society. There was the often-shared “5 Things You Need to Know About Introverts” and now, support groups such as the “Introverts Are Awesome” page on Facebook.

Is there a new epidemic of misunderstood introspection? Or is social media finally giving voice to a segment of the population that previously felt uncomfortable bringing up the topic? Whatever the reason, introverts are a significant part of the workforce that needs to be recognized.

Introverts, it must be said, are not necessarily shy, standoffish or antisocial. Many are as capable as any extroverted glad-hander at being successful professionals. They just prefer one-on-one relationships to large crowds, which many of them find stressful or exhausting. (Check out the All About Introversion page on the Psychology Today site.)

For better or worse, however, most of our career interactions are set up for extroverts who are happiest in a crowd. What’s an introvert (or just an old-fashioned “shy person”) to do?  Here are a few strategies to try the next time anxiety strikes.

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Set goals. Don’t try to meet every person in the room. Instead, give yourself a comfortable target — say three to five quality contacts, who might be able to give you access to hiring managers in your profession.

Research. Try to get a list of the attendees in advance of the event. Look them up on LinkedIn and pick the top candidates who have the most in common with your needs, which can help you come up with questions to start a conversation.

Talk to the host first. There’s usually an organizer present to help facilitate interpersonal connections. If you have trouble sticking out your hand, ask the host for an introduction – it’s exactly the role that he or she is there to perform.

Listen to others. Instead of worrying about what to say about yourself, ask other people questions about their careers and listen actively to their stories. That way, they do most of the talking, and you will have made a good impression by paying attention to their needs.

Allow yourself to leave early. This is not an endurance contest. If you’re at a two-hour event and you’ve had some productive conversations, go ahead and leave after an hour or so. Those who stay until the bitter end with 47 new business cards aren’t necessarily any closer to getting their dream jobs than you are.

Randy Woods is a writer and editor in the Puget Sound business publishing arena and a veteran of the local job-search scene. Email him at