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Living as an introvert abroad: How to land a job when networking is hell

Post-undergrad, I packed my bags and headed to Amsterdam. While the initial plan was travel, I soon found myself longing to be involved in my industry in a different cultural context. So, I brushed up my CV, polished my portfolio and started figuring out how to land a job in a new country.

Now, I am, in every way, an introvert. Time by myself? A total party. Exhausted after talking to people, especially in large groups? I’m comatose. Small talk? I’d rather go to the dentist. In fact, I like the dentist, because small talk is really hard when you’ve got a mouth full of goop. Let’s just say networking doesn’t come naturally to me. But I muddled along and did land a job in The Netherlands. And here’s how all you introverts abroad can, too:

Join Facebook groups, Meetup groups, really any/all social groups you can find. They are great safe spaces to informally chat with people who have similar interests. And yes, you never actually have to leave the comfort of your Airbnb/hostel/what-have-you.

Go to free talks and events. I do this a lot. As an introvert, I used to avoid inherently social situations like these because I was sure everyone was there, chit-chatting away, and I’d be forced to… mingle. The horror. But after going to a few, I realized I could just sit quietly in the back, listen, and not have to introduce myself to a soul. This helped me to get a glimpse into the goings-on of my industry in a different country.

Embrace the uncomfortable. At one of the aforementioned free talks, I got stuck in an elevator with a talkative Dutch man. While I would have been elated to wait out the... crisis in silence, embracing his prattle provided me with a valuable tip: a Dutch job board, exclusive to my industry. I never would have known about it otherwise, and it ultimately helped me to land a position.

Just show up. This might be your equivalent of the dentist, but here me out. I spent about a month finding companies online, looking up their addresses, and knocking on doors. The thing is, if you just show up, you have less time to panic about the what-will-I-say’s and what-will-they-say’s beforehand. You’re also more likely to chat with someone one-on-one, as opposed to *shudder* a crowded networking event. Just showing up show initiative, interest and you can leave on your own time.

Ask for an informational interview. If just showing up is giving you the heebies, sending a cold email is a safer approach. I sent a lot of these out, although I tended to request an informational interview, rather than straight out ask if the company was hiring. Informational interviews are the gateway, as everyone loves to talk about themselves and are usually fairly grateful to book a thirty minute break away from their cubicles.

All in all, it’s about getting yourself out there in manageable ways. Figure out what you are comfortable with, and work from there. If I can get a job overseas as an introvert, anyone can.

Stephen Powers: Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (Just Not At The Brooklyn Museum)