Articles from TheCareerAdvisor
Skip Haley's Networking Tips For Introverts

This is a networking how-to for anyone—but especially for those who are shy, introverted, or just plain intimidated by the sales process involved in a career transition.

This is Skip Haley's story. Skip is a fundraiser—a development officer—by background. He's an especially warm, friendly person by nature, one of the nicest people you could ever meet. Skip is also a great networker by instinct. You have to be to survive in fundraising.

Like many executives over 40, Skip suffered a mid-career burnout. At the time, he was Director of Development for the University of Denver's School of Social Work—a bad fit. The job was threatening his health, and when he realized how unhappy he was, Skip resigned his position to conduct a full-time search for something else. That's when we met him at CareerLab

Skip said he was "tired of asking for money." His initial thought was to abandon fundraising altogether and to make a total career change. Complicating Skip's situation was the fact that he was living in Denver, and his wife and the family home were in Phoenix.

Although Skip is a good networker, he suffered major disappointments and setbacks along the way, including financial hardships.

However, his job search was a huge success. He's now Director of Donor Development for the Multiple Sclerosis Society in Phoenix. It's still a fundraising position, but one he's excited about. After Skip accepted his job offer, he talked with Bill Frank, CareeerLab's President, about his job hunt—and especially about the dos-and-don'ts of networking.

  FRANK   What was the highlight for you of your job campaign?  
  HALEY   Finally getting a job. What happened is just amazing. There is no science to networking.  
  FRANK   Why not?  
  HALEY   Well, you can't quantify it. You just have to do it and you never know what's going to come. You know, it's like weather. You never know what it's going to be like. You never know how long it's going to last. You never know what's going to come of it. There's no way to say, "These are the Ten Commandments of Networking." Because every time you turn around, you're going to come up with another commandment, or one is going to go away.  
  FRANK   With that being said, "What are the Ten Commandments?"  
  HALEY   I knew you were going to say that. . . I guess, The first commandment is "Thou shalt not give up." That is about the only constant. I mean, there were times, and I will be very frank with you: there were times when I thought, "What am I spending all this money for? What am I putting all this effort out for? Nothing is happening." Well, at the same time that I was saying nothing is happening, stuff was happening all the time.
And the second commandment is, "You are, indeed, the Captain of your own ship." Nobody's going to do it for you, and there's a whole lot of guidance and a whole lot of help out there. But, in the final analysis, they say, "God will give you the bus, but He's not going to drive it for you."
  FRANK   You know, a lot of people are introverted, shy, scared of picking up the telephone.  
  HALEY   Yeah, I hate it. I absolutely hate it. But isn't it interesting—every time you do it, something good comes of it.  
  FRANK   Now, when you say you hate it, I don't understand that because you also say, in the same breath, you love networking.  
  HALEY   Yes. The initial step in networking is picking up the phone and starting it. And, there is in me—and I would venture to say in most introverts—there is an innate fear of rejection. And, you just have to overcome that.  
  FRANK   How?  
  HALEY   Pick up the phone and call.  
  FRANK   Are you an introvert?  
  HALEY   Yup.  
  FRANK   Okay, but yet at the same time, you're a great networker.  
  HALEY   Well, yes, it's an act and I have to work very hard at it.  
  FRANK   What do you mean "it's an act?"  
  HALEY   If I had my druthers, I would just not do anything. I would sit very quietly and read my books and . . .  
  FRANK   Let people call you?  
  HALEY   Let people call me. But, they don't call. They don't call unless you call them. And, you've got to do it. But, not only am I an introvert, I'm also a very shy person.  
  FRANK   So, how should an introverted, shy person approach the job search?  
  HALEY   Well, I did all of my homework. I made sure I had all the right tools available. I had a killer resume. I had a great set of letters that would open doors. And then, having done all of that, I said to myself, "Okay you've done all the planning, now put the plan into effect." The momentum I developed from sending letters to the known universe was important. Later, it became harder and harder to keep that momentum going as I continued to make calls and make contacts and go on informational interviews. Nothing was happening. That's when the momentum became tough to maintain. But, that's also the time when I picked another known universe to write to.  
  FRANK   Okay, talk about the known universe because you really hit the wall. (His job search stalled.)  
  HALEY   Yes, I did. When I hit the wall, I decided to expand my universe, and that was the point at which you and I started taking a look at other areas of the country to write to. And that's when I started writing to all my friends in Phoenix and probably sent out almost as many letters to Phoenix as I did in Denver.

It was at that point that I figured, I've hit a wall in Denver, and maybe I am being divinely guided to go home. And, I think that that's an individual thing. Somebody else is going to hit a wall and find another direction to go. My direction was to come home.

  FRANK   Right.  
  HALEY   And, hey, it paid off.  
  FRANK   Yes. Now talk about collecting other people's business cards at meetings.  
  HALEY   I feel that if I'm ever in a gathering and I don't leave with at least three business cards, I've not been successful.  
  FRANK   As a shy person, how do you set about getting those three business cards? What are some lines or some approaches that shy people could use?  
  HALEY   "What do you do?" That's my first question. "Hi, I'm Skip Haley. I'm networking. I'm looking for a job. I understand this is a great place to come and what are you doing here? And, what brought you here?" You know, you just start the conversation. I think curiosity is probably the greatest tool, especially in a shy person's tool bag.  
  FRANK   Aren't you embarrassed to say, "I'm looking for a job?"  
  HALEY   No, not at all. I've been successful in everything I do and I made a decision to leave DU, and I'm not ashamed of my decision. The situation was such that I felt I would be better off doing something else. So, now I'm doing something else. I found that a lot of people, when they heard that I left DU of my own accord without a job, thought I was either crazy or had just a ton of guts.  
  FRANK   So, that was a door opener in itself.  
  HALEY   Sure. And you know, from there, if you start a conversation and ask someone about themselves and you're genuinely interested in them, it's a great opening gambit.  
  FRANK   Give me a couple of questions that as a shy person could use to ask someone about themselves besides "What do you do?".  
  HALEY   Probably, the best opening questions are:
  • "What do you do?"
  • "How did you get into that?"
  • "I've always been interested in public relations. What would I have to do to get into public relations?"
  • "How'd you do it?"
  • "Do you like it?"
  • "Do you really like it?"
  • "Have you ever thought of doing anything else?"
You just keep asking those good open-ended questions.
  FRANK   Give me a half dozen good, open-ended questions for networking.  
  HALEY   Oh, a good one always is something like, "Well, I've heard about your agency (or company). My goodness, your mission is certainly compelling. How are you fulfilling your mission? What is your reward?" There are two questions. "What kind of rewards are you looking for?" And, I'm not talking about financial rewards, but "What gets you up every morning? What keeps you going about this organization?" I think it's a question that we all have to ask ourselves, and it is certainly a legitimate question for a job seeker or a networker to ask somebody. "What stokes your coal?"  
  FRANK   Early on you had to gather names for your network—what you called the known universe. Talk a little bit about that because, many people say, "Oh, I can't write to my Realtor® because I didn't buy my last house from him and he's probably mad at me," and "I can't write to this person cause he wouldn't remember me, or to that person for some other reason." They spend a great deal of time focusing on the people they feel they can't contact. Or put another way, they put a lot of effort into finding reasons not to contact people. They're too old, retired, in the wrong industry—you name it. I've heard them all.  
  HALEY   Well, set that aside. Your Realtor®, is a good example. Even if you didn't buy your last house from him and he may be mad at you, he isn't going to ignore a potential sale just because he's ticked at you. You may buy your next house from him.  
  FRANK   When you started this process and asked yourself, "Who should I be contacting?", how did you put that together?  
  HALEY   I wrote to everybody in the Rotary Club and I did a couple of kinds of letters to the folks in the Rotary Club. I wrote "Letter A" to those people I knew and "Letter B" to those people who knew me, but I didn't necessarily know of our connections with Rotary.
I wrote to my colleagues in the non-profit sector—those who I knew, and many whom I didn't know. It wasn't that I sent out a whole bunch of letters at one time. It was an ongoing process. And, one of the things I asked at the end of each letter was the old salesman's question, "Who else should I be talking to?"
And, so, it was a mailing list that grew exponentially as we went through the process. But, I started with all my Rotarian friends, all my non-profit friends, all my friends at church, the Rector of the Parish, the other clergy in the Parish. I even sent a letter to my physician. About the only person I didn't write to was my cleaning woman because I didn't have her address.
  FRANK   Couldn't you have written to her in care of your own address?  
  HALEY   Well, I could have; but then, she would have worried about where her next paycheck was coming from.  
  FRANK   So, how many names did you have on your list initially? And how many names did you have on your list toward the end?  
  HALEY   Initially, there were 90 on the list. By the time I finished this whole process, I probably wrote close to 500 people. Both here and in Colorado, expanded that around the country—people whom I hadn't seen or talked to in years.  
  FRANK   Tell me about renewing friendships with those you hadn't seen in years.  
  HALEY   That was really kind of eye opening. You really found out who your friends were. You found out who were really not great friends by the number of people who didn't call you back or the number of people who just kind of blew you off if you did get to talk to them. There were very few of those.
But, because I really didn't ask anything more than a few minutes of their time and their advice, virtually everybody I wrote to—old friends who I hadn't talked to in a long time, and new friends—were all willing to talk to me. Some were very honest and said, "You know, I really don't know anybody in your field or your area of interest who could help you. But, if I do hear of anything, I'll certainly let you know." Really, it was generally a positive experience.
  FRANK   How did you keep in touch with people. Once you spoke to somebody, how did you keep them enrolled in your network through the process?  
  HALEY   I used a follow-up letter that said, "Thanks so much for the names. I have scheduled appointments or I have called so-and-so, and so-and-so, and so-and-so." Then I contacted my sources after the appointments to tell them how it went. And I would always say, "Anybody else I should be talking to?" And, generally, they came up with somebody else.  
  FRANK   Being a shy person and somewhat introverted, were you afraid to pick up the phone and call people?  
  HALEY   Yes. It's a long-time fear that I've had that someone is going to say no to me. And, I had to overcome that feeling of rejection.  
  FRANK   If you were afraid to call a certain person, did you ask your referring friend to contact them on your behalf?  
  HALEY   Yes, I would. And, I did that a lot. For somebody I didn't know, I would ask the referring person if he or she wouldn't mind paving the way with a quick phone call and, generally, they were willing to do that. In some cases, no. But they were certainly willing to let me use their name at the top of the letter. Something like, "Susan Smith of IBM gave me your name and suggested I call you."  
  FRANK   So, using a name on a letter is probably a good tactic for a shy person.  
  HALEY   Oh, sure. Anything that is going to overcome that shyness, that reluctance.  
  FRANK   Let's say I'm going to a big organizational dinner meeting. I really don't want to go. I don't know anybody that's going to be there, and I'm kind of intimidated by going. What mind set should I take and how should I approach walking in the door?  
  HALEY   Actually, the mindset I used or the approach I used was to say to myself, "Sure, don't go. You can catch up on reruns, but you're not going to have anything to do tomorrow. If you don't go, you're not going to meet people. And, if you don't meet people, you're not going to get a job." It was tough love.  
  FRANK   Tough love for yourself.  
  HALEY   Yes.  
  FRANK   What are some ways you gave yourself tough love?  
  HALEY   By constantly reminding myself what the alternative to not doing anything about getting a job was going to be. You're going to lose your house, lose your family, and could very easily become a homeless person.  
  FRANK   That must have been frightening.  
  HALEY   It was. When I finally got the job booking reservations at Super Shuttle, money was a real concern. (Super Shuttle is an airport shuttle bus.)  
  FRANK   Tell me about the job at Super Shuttle.  
  HALEY   I just had to do something, so I got a job booking reservations at Super Shuttle. Worked three to eleven taking reservations. It was probably the most tedious, irritating job I have ever had in my life. But, it gave me mornings and early afternoons to look for a job and do my networking. It also kept the wolves away from the door. I only worked there for three months, but having that motivation to get up and go to work and knowing that I had the morning and early afternoon to do things to find a job helped. It really helped.
One of the things that goes early in the job search is your sense of self worth. You just have to do anything you can to keep that sense of self value high. And what I ultimately did, once I had that job, I would be driving to work thinking, "God, I'm going to this awful job, but the other side of that is that I am now able to contribute something to the household." And that's important.
So, you have to do what you have to do. Sure, the job was beneath me but you know, there are a lot of other people in the world who have a job that is beneath them, but that doesn't mean they're not good people.
  FRANK   So, you feel it was better for you to take a job that was beneath you . . .  
  HALEY   Than to be a proud pauper.  
  FRANK   Well-said. Give me one or two real home runs in the networking process where you had some real breakthroughs.  
  HALEY   Well, I think the major home run was with the MS Society. Obviously, it was a home run; it was over the fence. I think probably the other major home run did not result in a job, but the interview came about because of networking.
There wasn't even an ad in the paper. It was an interview with the Cancer Society down here (in Phoenix) that started with my networking in Denver. I got to know some folks at the Cancer Society in the regional office in Denver and they put me onto the situation down here, and I got a call from the Executive Director here to come interview. That was another serious home run.
  FRANK   People say, "I'm not going to contact my friends in Dallas, because I want to stay in Denver." What would you say to those people?  
  HALEY   Call your friends in Dallas anyway.  
  FRANK   Why?  
  HALEY   Well, you know—never say never. If somebody in Dallas thinks you're good enough to pay $160,000 a year to run their hospital, that doesn't mean that you're going to have to stay in Dallas the rest of your life. But, it's an addition to your resume that's going to really look great.  
  FRANK   No, I mean just the networking part. Let's say that you're coaching me, but I'm not moving to Dallas. There's no question about that. I'm staying in Denver and that's why I don't want to write to anyone outside of Colorado. I don't see any point in . . .  
  HALEY   Somebody in Dallas, knowing your situation, may know somebody in Denver. So, I wrote to people as far away as Connecticut.  
  FRANK   Were there any examples of people from other states—besides the big home run—helping you?  
  HALEY   Well, sure. Friends in Oregon had friends in Denver, and I certainly didn't want to go back to Oregon; but, my goodness, these people in Oregon were people I had worked with. One guy was a headhunter who knew some folks in Denver, and he also knew some folks in Phoenix. That was a good call. I got some other leads from those folks. Yes, call your friends in Dallas. They may know somebody in Denver.  
  FRANK   Earlier, we went through a couple of rules of networking like, "Never give up." What other dos-and-don'ts come to mind?  
  HALEY   Don't assume anything. Do call Dallas. Don't say no for anybody. Don't say, "I'm not going to call him cause he's not going to be able to help me." Don't ever make that assumption. Don't say no for anybody.  
  FRANK   What about crossing people off your list? I know sometimes people will say, "Well, Charley didn't help me; therefore, I'm crossing him off my friendship list."  
  HALEY   Oh, no. I wouldn't do that. I wouldn't cross anybody off the list.  
  FRANK   How about creating or attending job support groups?  
  HALEY   They're awfully good. I got real encouragement and developed some real good friendships out of our "Marching Band and Chowder Society." (For several weeks Skip attended a job search support group at CareerLab. Skip is the one who actually gave the group its playful name.)  
  FRANK   Is that what we called it? The Marching Band and Chowder Society?  
  HALEY   It was something like that: The Friday Morning Marching Band and Chowder Society. Olivia, one of the group members, is a good friend whom I still talk to every once in awhile. She was very supportive and gave me some good leads.
I think I've told you about St. Tim's Employment Ministry in Phoenix which is a marvelous organization. They had 37 people at their networking meeting Wednesday. And it goes up and down. I've spoken a couple times to their networking meeting and it's just a tremendous support group. I have some good friends there.
When I was job hunting, we traded leads. One guy was going through the paper and he spotted an ad that I passed right over for a Director of Development for the Arizona Bar Association. He cut it out, brought it into the Ministry and gave it to me, and I did the same thing for him on something he was looking for. So, yes, support groups are important.
  FRANK   What was the biggest disappointment in your process?  
  HALEY   The growing realization that I wouldn't have a job by January 31.  
  FRANK   Which was how long into your job search?  
  HALEY   Three months.  
  FRANK   And when you felt that disappointed, what did you tell yourself?  
  HALEY   Well, I couldn't tell myself anything but just keep going. Actually, you know that's not a fair answer to you. Probably the biggest disappointment in the whole process is when I realized that I really needed to leave DU. I was disappointed in DU and I guess I was disappointed in myself in that I just didn't feel that I could do the job.
I think that was the biggest disappointment. Yes, it was. I got the disappointment out of the way early. And, you know, there were disappointments all the way along and every time I didn't get a job, that was the biggest disappointment of the time.
  FRANK   Of the day.  
  HALEY   Yes.  
  FRANK   Someone has described the job search as "The Highest Highs and The Lowest Lows."  
  HALEY   It's kind of like manic depression. It really is. And, it's probably the toughest job you'll ever have. There's no regular compensation.  
  FRANK   No electronic deposit into your bank account.  
  HALEY   Exactly.  
  FRANK   These rules for networking are really critical because I think many, many people who go through this process are shy, they are afraid. They are even afraid to pick up the phone and call an old friend. So, when you are feeling that fear, how do you approach the phone call? What do you think besides calling and saying, "I need a job," which is very embarrassing and scary? If you're going to call a friend, how do you position that call? What script do you use? What approach do you take?  
  HALEY   This is kind of a silly approach, but I still do it. But I ultimately make the phone call. I do everything else that I think needs to be done before I can make the phone call, and that can also include arranging the paper clips.  
  FRANK   Getting the paper clips lined up in descending order?  
  HALEY   Right. Making sure that you know exactly what is in each pile on your desk. I still do it. Put all the files away and then pull the file out that I need to talk to my friend. And, if I don't have a file, I create one. I script out what I am going to say.  
  FRANK   So first of all there's a lot of avoiding. What are some of the avoidance behaviors?  
  HALEY   Lining up the paper clips. Looking up the phone number in your own personal directory and then checking the telephone directory to make sure it's the right number.  
  FRANK   That's a good one.  
  HALEY   Make sure you don't have his fax number because you don't want that high-pitched whistle in your ear. Putting the files away. Getting the files back out. Opening the file or, if you don't have a file, creating a file.  
  FRANK   How about sorting the papers in the file?  
  HALEY   Sorting the papers in the file or finding a clean legal pad, and then writing the person's name at the top of the pad. Creating an agenda and then tearing that off and starting again.  
  FRANK   So, when you finally make the contact, what script do you use or what's your mindset in trying to talk to this person?  
  HALEY   I usually just wing it. You dial the number and hope you get his machine. Then when he or she answers, I'm so taken aback that I just start a conversation, and we chat for a while and then I say, "Listen, this is what I'm calling about."  
  FRANK   Which is?  
  HALEY   Which is whatever the mission is. "As you probably know I've left DU and wonder if I could get a few minutes of your time and tell you what I'm doing and seek some advice from you." Or, "Could I get you to serve on a committee for me? These are the things we need to do." Or, "Could you and I get together for lunch?"  
  FRANK   Why do you suppose we humans are so scared. I mean, you love networking. You've said that. Why do you suppose it's so difficult for us to talk to other people?  
  HALEY   Fear of rejection.  
  FRANK   You know one thing we missed, Skip. We didn't talk about your love for networking.  
  HALEY   Even being shy and being an introvert, for some reason, crowds draw me. And it's just a natural thing to just wander and make eye contact with people and say, "Hey, how are you?" I just enjoy doing it, and again, it's great if I can make a connection, or if I can help someone else make a connection.
I did a little test the last time I spoke at Saint Tim's. My little test was: there were some new people there. I knew nothing about them, so I started talking to the woman. I asked her where she was from and what had brought her to Phoenix—and I had said to everybody in the room, "Feel free to jump in any time," but Kim and I are going to chat for a minute.
Well, sitting next to Kim was a guy from her home town. And they had both moved to Phoenix to find jobs. So, I just let them talk and then somebody else jumped in, more experienced. Then, one of them turned to me and said, "You rest your case."
  FRANK   So, in one sense, you dislike networking—you hate making new contacts—on the other hand, you love it.  
  HALEY   Yes, once I get into it. You know, it's like that initial phone call. I hate making the phone call, but I'm always glad I made it afterwards. Especially when good stuff happens. Like, "Yeah, I would really like to consider making a major gift to you. Why don't we get together?" Wow, that person wouldn't have said that had I not called.  
  FRANK   That's right. Back when I started my own company, one of the calls that I was most scared of, was to a multinational corporation I'll call BIG. I had worked for a national consulting firm, and BIG was one of our clients. When I went out on my own, I thought I'd call my contact in BIG. And, I was absolutely petrified. I mean, I was absolutely scared to death. So much so that I just said, "I'm not doing this." Finally, like you, I talked myself into it. The end of the story is that we've probably done a million dollars worth of work for BIG, and they're still a client today. We would not have that money in the bank had I not made that call.  
  HALEY   Exactly. Shy, introverted people who overcome their fears have hundred of stories like that.  
  FRANK   Really?  
  HALEY   Yes. I can think of countless times when I've not wanted to make the call, but I've made the call anyway, and nothing but good has come out of it.  
  FRANK   Okay. So, "make the calls" is the message. And look to others for support and encouragement.  
  HALEY   Yes. I think another important thing about calling is that, if you line up 10 or 20 calls and try to discipline yourself to make them, you'll never make them. But, if you line up 10 or 20 calls and give yourself a day or two to make them—and do other things between calls—you'll make them all.  
  FRANK   In other words, you need to have a realistic goal. It's ridiculous to tell yourself you're going to make 50 calls in a day, because all you're going to do is frustrate yourself.  
  HALEY   Exactly. Because, if you get three or four calls where the answer is "No," you're going to get discouraged. And it's going to be harder and harder to make those calls. So, if you make a call and the answer is, "No, I won't see you. I can't help you," that's okay. Do something else for a while and then go back later to make the calls.  
  FRANK   In other words, don't beat yourself up.  
  HALEY   Right.  
  FRANK   As long as a person makes three to five productive calls a day—and I don't count calling and getting a busy signal as making a call!  
  HALEY   No. It's a relief when you do get a busy signal. And, yes, leaving a message is also not a successful call. You just have to call them back if they don't call you back.  
  FRANK   What role did CareerLab play in your process?  
  HALEY   Direction! You got me launched. We got a killer resume out of it. We got great letters. Probably one of your greatest contributions is that I had a home for several months. I had someplace I could go every day, which is so critical. I had a reason to get up in the morning and get dressed and get cleaned up and go to work.  
  FRANK   How about the environment around here? What kind of environment did we create?  
  HALEY   Totally irreverent. But I think that's important. But totally irreverent, totally supportive. I can't say enough about the folks at CareerLab. Not to put anybody down, but of everybody who works there, Donna is the driving force, and when you arrive in the morning, she makes you feel like the king of the world and when you leave, you just know she's looking forward to seeing you again. If you ever lose her, you all might as well just retire.  
  FRANK   Oh, we've planned that. And, I've told Donna I know who runs this company. When you say totally irreverent, what do you mean?  
  HALEY   Well, this is really important. I think the irreverence helps everybody not to take him or herself too seriously.  
  FRANK   How do you experience the irreverence? How did that come across?  
  HALEY   Well, the fact that you thought my jokes were just incredible. You have a great way of not letting us take ourselves too seriously. I think the support group could have wound up being very, very serious and self-righteous—except that we chose to name it. And isn't it interesting that those people who were really taking themselves too seriously, didn't last too long. Now they had other reasons for not showing up. The best reason for not showing up was getting a job, and I understand that. The irreverence, you know—it's not something you can put your finger on. But it's there and it helps you not take yourself so seriously.  
  FRANK   So we played, basically, the role of being totally irreverent and totally supportive. We got you a killer resume, we got you some letters. Anything else that came from our side that was of value to you?  
  HALEY   Keeping me focused. Keeping me doing what I needed to do.  
  FRANK   Did you tend to lack focus?  
  HALEY   Yes, I tend to lack focus. I tend to see the whole picture of things. I tend not to be overly concerned about details and details were absolutely critical to a job search. Making sure that you are doing everything right. And that is where you guys helped.  
  FRANK   Okay. So we kind of kept you focused on the details.  
  HALEY   Yes.  
  FRANK   I like to view us as partners in the process. You know that it is a team effort. You play a role, we play a role, and it doesn't work unless both do their part.  
  HALEY   Exactly.  
  FRANK   Although you did a lot of networking—and the contacts you made helped you win the position—you actually got your job lead by answering a want ad, didn't you? Would you mind letting us take a look at your letter?  
  HALEY   Yes, I got the lead through an ad, and I'd love to share the letter with you. I keep it tucked away here in my desk drawer. | Return to index of articles.

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