Networking often comes across as an activity meant for extroverts, after all extroverts thrive in and derive energy from people around them. Networking can appear to be an uncomfortable endeavor for introverts, who derive energy from private thinking time and may find large rooms filled with people over stimulating. However for the purpose of seeking a job or even career development and growth, building relationships and meeting new people is essential to take conversations to the next level. The fact is, most people struggle at networking, but very few admit it.
As an introvert, you might find it more difficult to step out of your comfort zone to interact with people. The idea that only outgoing people can establish relationships with others is not true. Introverts can combine their strengths along with their personality to have meaningful, constructive conversations.
Here are 5 tips for introverts to embrace networking and succeed in it.
Identify few networking events you would want to attend that might be in line with your interests – E.g. industry mixers, internal events in your workplace. Prepare a few questions to initiate a conversation at such events and aim to have short conversations with many people, making sure you have their contact information so you can follow up later.
Alternatively, you could also plan to identify 2-3 people to engage with meaningfully, and walk out having cultivated those relationships.
2) Set a Goal
Setting goals gives you a sense of purpose and makes you feel good when you have achieved it. Focus on setting simple goals. Perhaps your goal could be meeting 3 people at an event you have planned to attend. Be sure to meet those people, get their contact information and then follow up to set-up a coffee meeting to talk further and strengthen your connection.
Networking is successful when you are able to make a real connection. Don’t feel compelled to leave a great conversation in the middle to procure a target number of business cards.
3) Be a Good Listener
Aim at posing open-ended questions to people at a networking event. Naturally gifted with keen listening skills, introverts may find this helps them connect with others in a meaningful way.
Asking open-ended questions has the added benefit of putting the focus on the other person. Most people enjoy talking about themselves and it positions you as being interested and engaged — both positive networking outcomes.
4) Attend Networking Events judiciously.
Spend some time and decide which events you really want to attend and what value you stand to gain out of it. As Dorie Clark, author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future rightly says:
Every networking event should be subjected to a cost-benefit analysis: if you weren’t here, what would you be doing, instead? Running the numbers is particularly important for introverts, because even if the alternative isn’t something overtly productive like writing a new business proposal, the cost side of the equation can be steep: you may be exhausting yourself emotionally for hours or days afterward. Ask yourself who’s likely to attend, and whether they’re your target audience (however you define that — potential clients, interesting colleagues, etc.). Then follow up by asking how likely it is that you’ll actually get to connect with them.
5) Leverage your Strengths through Multiple Mediums
Identify your strengths and know what you would like to leverage when you meet someone. Own your personality and display it confidently.
Many introverts love to write, rather than speak. Use this natural gift to promote your enthusiasm and expertise. Social media offers powerful ways to build your network. Blogging is also an excellent way to demonstrate your knowledge.
At networking events or meetings, talk about any papers or articles you might have published in the past. If you have a natural skill of engaging better in one-on-one meetings rather than group settings, then concentrate on scheduling such meetings. You can network and connect with individuals using social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter or sites such as tenthousandcoffees.com.
Introverts have different strengths and have the ability to leverage them to grow their own network.
In a culture where being social and outgoing is prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. As Susan Cain says in this passionate TED talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.